It always fascinates me when I learn something brand new from a familiar passage of scripture. We’ve probably all heard Matthew 19:13-22 since we were little kids, yet in Sunday School the other day I realized some things about these verses I’d never thought about before. Read through them with me:
13 Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them.
14 But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
15 After laying His hands on them, He departed from there.
16 And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?”
17 And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
18 Then he said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness;
19 Honor your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
20 The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?”
21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
22 But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.
In the past, I’d always heard the first three verses above as one lesson and the rest as a completely unrelated lesson, but I realized for the first time that they are definitely related. In verse 14, Jesus doesn’t say the kingdom of heaven belongs to children. He says it belongs to such as these.
Little children don’t complicate life with a lot of doubts. They tend to accept what they are told on faith. He’s saying the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who trust Him and follow in blind faith. In Matthew 5:3 He says it belongs to “the poor in spirit,” i.e. those who aren’t puffed up with pride but are teachable—willing to hear and believe.
Then He’s confronted by this rich man who asks what he needs to do to obtain eternal life. Filled with pride and claiming to have kept all the commandments, he wants to know how to buy his way into heaven.
Knowing this man is not such as these, Jesus gives him something to do which He knows the man will not do, and the man goes away grieving. This story was placed next to the incident with the children to illustrate the difference between the two. The children, simple in their wants and willing to believe in Him are blessed, but the man of pride is sent away with nothing. We can learn a lot by meditating on the difference in Jesus’s attitude in these two situations.
One other thing struck me during the discussion. I’d never given any thought to the man’s question, “What am I still lacking?” He either believed or convinced himself that he had kept all the law, but he realized he was lacking something. He was lacking the same thing we have all found ourselves lacking throughout history.
We were born with a vacuum inside us. Some of us try to fill it with drugs, others with alcohol, others with wealth or sex or other things. But the vacuum can only be filled by the Holy Spirit through our accepting Jesus as our Savior. That’s the peace this man was missing and that we all miss until we come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
What thoughts have you had about this passage of scripture?
If you abide in Me and My word abides in you, then you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.
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In my study of scripture, faith is important, but not blind faith. Hebrews 11:1 speaks of faith as “the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.” Biblical faith is not blind – it’s built on evidence.
To be “such as these” does indicate humility, as that it what allows a person to be teachable.
Maybe ‘blind’ was a poor choice of words. I’m talking about faith that believes God even when we don’t see what He’s doing.
Becoming “such as these” children does point to those who are at the “bottom” of those ranked according to power, wealth, status, etc. So the rich young man was indeed not “such as these,” and didn’t want to go from first to last by selling treasured possessions and giving to the poor (those ranked at the bottom also). And what the rich man lacked was the Spirit of God, so that what was impossible with men (going from first to last) is possible with God, through the power of the Spirit.
All of this could be what Jesus meant also in Mt. 5:3–if we translate it as “Blessed are the poor in the Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The poor, who are “such as these” children and who are “in the Spirit,” are those who belong to Jesus’ new kingdom (of disciples).