Scripture: Matthew 18:1-14
Key Verse: (5) “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name, welcomes me.”
Reflection: This passage from Matthew is often quoted to lift up children’s ministries, or outreach programs to children. It warms our hearts to consider the image of Jesus embracing a cute little child and lifting up their innocence as a standard for God’s beloved community. In our society, children are of central importance. Parents sacrifice for their kids. Nothing pulls at our heartstrings like a child in need.
That was not the case in Jesus’ day. Scholars tell us 30% of children died in infancy, and 60% died before they reached the age of 16. As Tom Long puts it in his commentary on Matthew, “Indeed, a child was a ‘nobody,’ the social equal of a slave.” Jesus says such people are the greatest in God’s eyes. Not only are they the greatest, they embody Jesus’ presence in our midst, as Jesus goes on to say, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name, welcomes me.”
While we say children are of central importance in our world, sometimes I wonder if all children are important to us. What do Jesus’ words mean in a state where 25% of our children live in poverty? What do they mean in a nation where 13 million children live in homes that have food insecurity? What do they mean in a world where 8.8 million children will die before their fifth birthday? What would it mean for us to see Christ in the face of suffering children in our world?
Prayer: Open our eyes to see your face in the face of children, O God—not just my children, but all children. Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].