Ps. 127, Eph. 4:25-32, Mt. 25:14-30
So far in this series, we have established that Christian mission flows from the assumption of God’s abundance. We ground our faith in that abundance by prioritizing the use of our time and resources in accordance with God’s word, specifically through obedience in Sabbath keeping and tithing. Last week, we asserted that the most valuable created resource in the universe is people. All sin is a form of waste and fraud, but sexual sin and confusion is a particularly heinous crime because it is against the image of God and drives much poverty, abuse, and addiction in our world. Jesus comes as our Bridegroom, our Kinsman Redeemer with living water to restore all of us, body and soul, to our full potential. Today, we pour another part of this slab by insisting that children are central to the mission of bringing Christ’s mercy to the world. Receiving and training children is not at odds with the task of making disciples of Jesus and but rather central to proclaiming repentance to all men.
Let the Little Children Come
It is a well known episode where the disciples are under the impression that children would be a distraction or get in the way of the mission of Jesus (Mt. 19:13-15, Mk. 10:13-16, Lk. 18:15-17). But Jesus disagrees. He says that the little children should be allowed to come to Him, and that His disciples should not do anything to hinder them (Mt. 19:14). Why would we want to bring children into a world with terrorism, racism, drug addiction, AIDS epidemics, orphans, disabled people, tyrannical government regimes, abortion, and homosexual and transgender perversions? Jesus began answering this question in the previous chapter in Matthew 18: Jesus said that little children are the greatest in the kingdom, and anyone who wants to enter the kingdom must become like them (Mt. 18:2-4). Likewise, He said that those who receive little children in His name, actually receive Him (Mt. 18:5). But those who hinder little children from coming to Jesus, those who cause them to sin, are at war with Jesus and therefore are under His judgment (Mt. 18:6-7). So we want to welcome children into our lives because we want to welcome Jesus into our life. His power and strength and greatness are especially revealed in children. So welcoming children is welcoming the power of Christ into our world.
Children as Treasure
This is what Solomon is talking about in Psalm 127. The song is about building houses and watching over cities, about laboring to be productive and successful in the world (Ps. 127:1-2). And the refrain is “if the Lord is not building…”, “if the Lord is not guarding…”, your building and guarding is worthless and empty. Solomon affirms our previous point about resting in the abundance of the Lord. But somewhat surprisingly, he then starts talking about children. In a song about building houses and guarding cities and working hard, Solomon says that children are an inheritance from the Lord; the fruit of the womb is His treasure (Ps. 127:3). Inheritance and treasures are what men invest to build houses and cities. Not only that but Solomon says that children are like arrows in the hand of a warrior. Notice that he does not say that children will one day be arrows. He says that they are arrows (present tense) (Ps. 127:4). And whereas our building and guarding and toiling without God is “empty,” Solomon says “happy is the man whose quiver is full of children” (Ps. 127:5). And just in case we think Solomon has changed the subject in some kind of subtle Hebraic sleight of hand, he closes by talking about confronting enemies in the city gates (Ps. 127:5). This psalm insists that children are central to building houses, guarding cities, laboring diligently, and confronting enemies. The implication is the same as what Jesus said explicitly: in receiving children we are welcoming the power of God into our homes and cities.
How Does This Work?
In Ephesians 4, Paul says that being a Christian means putting off the “old man” which is our old, futile, empty ways of thinking and living (Eph. 4:17-19). In Adam, human potential has plummeted. Sin and death suck the life out of men and women. But in Christ, men and women are being renewed, “after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:23-24). The image of God is the source of all human creativity, productivity, resourcefulness, and brilliance – and that is being renewed through Jesus Christ. The biblical word for this move from futility to productivity, from emptiness to fullness of life is repentance. Paul continues by illustrating what he means. The old man loves lies, so Christians must put off all falsehood. Lies breakdown trust and communication. Lies waste time and money, and are an insult to other image bearers. So Christians are to speak the truth (Eph. 4:25). Christians are not to be ruled by their anger; rather they must either kill it or address what needs to be addressed quickly (Eph. 4:26). And thieves must stop stealing. Theft is a failure to contribute your gifts and talents and treasures to the world and it dishonors the labors of others. In Christ, God turns the emptiness of theft into honest labor, and when men and women labor honestly with their own hands, they will always have at least a little to share with others. Christians are to build one another up with their words (Eph. 4:29), put away the emptiness and fruitlessness of bitterness and wrath, and put on kindness and forgiveness in Christ (Eph. 4:30-32). It turns out that welcoming children is welcoming people into your life who need to be trained up into this repentance. And when Christians do this honestly, these other people act as mirrors, revealing where you need repentance. This training requires you to see the children in your life as powerhouses of Christ’s presence. Children (and all people) are nuclear reactors of His glory.
Final Thoughts: How Are Children Arrows Now?
Children are arrows because they are disciples, and a church that welcomes and disciples them is a disciple-making church. This is why Christian education is so crucial. To the extent that we receive this mission with joy and apply ourselves to it, we are being given the resources we need to reach our neighbors with the gospel.
Children are arrows because they teach us that the best kind of “productivity” is often plodding, patient faithfulness. Children teach us to aim for the longview.
Children are arrows because they require us to deal with messes to the glory of God. This requires patience, hope, faith, and a good sense of humor.
Children are arrows because they are people we are in community with. Houses and cities are where communities gather. Our world needs this grace.