Throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus repeatedly speaking about how important children are to Him and to the Father. In Mark 10, we encounter Jesus surrounded by people, teaching them the truths of God. Some of the parents in the crowd started bringing their children to Him so He could bless them. The disciples rebuked these people and started practicing crowd control. They may have said something like, “The Master is teaching an important message. Please sit down and keep your children quiet.”
This passage states that when Jesus saw what was happening, He was displeased and told His disciples, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14, nkjv). He actually interrupted His teaching, put His hands on them and blessed them. In the midst of His busy ministry, Jesus stopped everything He was doing to show these children His love and interest.
In Mark 9:37 (nkjv), Jesus said, “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me.” What does His statement mean to us?
Imagine that you have worked all day and are finally sitting down to dinner with your family. Suddenly, you hear a knock on the door. You aren’t expecting anyone, so you look through the peephole thinking you will maybe see a salesman or someone who wants to mow your lawn. Instead, you see the King of the universe.
You would break down your front door to welcome Him in!
But what if you see a starving child, half-naked, with more holes than cloth in the rags she is wearing? Her hair is unkempt and filled with lice; her face is covered with dirt and sweat. Would you break down your door to welcome her in?
Jesus tells us that anyone who embraces little children, who loves them and who gives them dignity and value in His name is actually doing these same things for Jesus Himself (see Matthew 18:5). But there’s more to it than that. Jesus is so happy with anyone who cares for children in His name, that He will come and be with them in a special way. He tells us further in Mark 9:37 that we receive not only the Son, but God the Father also. So there is a special blessing for those who share the heart of the Eternal for His children.
In Matthew 18:10 (nasb), Jesus said, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” According to the dictionary, the meaning of the word despise is “to regard as unworthy of one’s interest or concern.”
Jesus is warning us that when we hear about needy children, we need to be careful not to see their plight as unworthy of our attention. We can’t simply say, “Yes, I know it’s awful. Those terrible people hurting children should be stopped, and the little ones should be loved and cared for. But there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Do you think Jesus cares about children who live on the streets? Do you believe He sees the boys and girls laboring long hours in the fields and firecracker factories? Does He identify with the pain of devastated young girls caught in the degrading life of prostitution?
He sees. He cares. He feels their pain.
I must confess that in the early years of the ministry, I was blind to these kids. Although I had been confronted by them all my life, my heart didn’t break for these desperate children like it should. Then one day the Lord got my attention while I was standing at a busy street corner in India waiting for the light to turn green.
There were little children everywhere, a common sight at many busy corners in Bombay. Tourists are cautioned not to give them anything because once you do, the others will all mob you.
While I was at this corner, feeling a bit annoyed by little hands grabbing at me, I heard from behind me the voice of a young girl.
“Sahib, Sir, my father died. My mother is sick. She can’t beg anymore. And I have a little brother, who is very hungry. Would you please give me a few pennies so I can buy some bread and take it to him?”
The light turned green, and everybody hurried on. But I couldn’t move. What she said pierced my heart. I turned around and saw this young girl, not yet 10 years old. I will never forget her face—one of the most beautiful faces I have ever seen on a child. She had big brown eyes, thick black hair almost the length of her body, dirty fingernails, and dust mingled with sweat running down her face. She was barefoot and in rags. She just stood there with her hand extended.
I put my hands in my pocket and took out all the money I could find and gave it to her. Then I walked on.
Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, I felt like an unseen stranger joined me on this emotional walk. The silent question He asked was deep and penetrating, “So what do you think about the little beggar girl you just met? Is her life as valuable and precious as ...” and the face of another young girl appeared in my mind’s eye. I didn’t know the name of the girl on the street, but I for certain knew the name of this new face; it was my own little daughter, Sarah.
The two were approximately the same age, but their lives could not have been more contrasting. Sarah had her own carpeted room with furniture and toys and every comfort one could imagine. My wife, her German mother, made sure she was well taken care of. Her sheets and pillowcases were changed every week on her comfortable bed. She had plenty of clothes, socks, tennis shoes, a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap and shampoo. We had given Sarah all of what is so abundantly available for children born and raised in the United States.
But for the Indian street girl I had just encountered, I doubt that she had ever held a toothbrush in her hand. Her face had never been washed with soapy water, and her hair had never been touched by shampoo. She had never slept in a warm bed under clean sheets and on fluffy pillows. Maybe she had never even heard the words, “Your mommy loves you. Your daddy loves you.”
This question just kind of hung in the air as I walked on, “Is her life as valuable and precious as ...”
No more questions were asked. I was left to process my own thoughts. What followed was one of the most difficult walks of my life. It was the first time I realized the pain and passion our Lord carries in His heart for the forgotten children in the villages and slums of these poor and destitute nations.
Honestly, I had great trouble trying to assimilate this revelation. I couldn’t imagine my daughter standing on that street in Bombay with her hand out begging for a few pennies to buy a piece of bread for her brother. It was too painful for me to think about.
Yet the reality remains that the girl I met represented the faces of millions of children who are crying out not only for food, but also for help and love and hope ... yet they can’t find any.
I certainly don’t want anyone to feel guilty about lovingly caring for our own children and grandchildren. But the question remains: Is there also room in our hearts for one or two of the world’s millions of suffering children, and can we also care for them in Jesus’ name? Can we see them as Jesus does, so special to Him, their worth like jewels beyond compare?
Excerpt taken from No Longer a Slumdog. Click “visit website” below to order a FREE copy of the entire book, No Longer a Slumdog.