Texts: Jeremiah 11:18-20; James 3:13-4.3, 7-8; Mark 9:30-37
It was not the same in Jesus’ time. The idea of childhood as we understand it is a relatively recent idea in our history, only a few centuries old. In Palestinian society at the time, children were like “pre-people:” they had status somewhere between property and slaves. This is not to say that parents (and fathers in particular) did not love their children, but their value lay more in what they would become—heirs and contributors to the family—not in who they were. Raising children was women’s work; men like Jesus’ disciples expected kids to be seen and not heard.
And yet, Jesus says instead of ignoring children his disciples ought to seek them out, show them hospitality and honor them as they would a guest in their own home. Jesus says that by welcoming insignificant children such as these, they actually welcome Jesus himself; and, of course, to receive Jesus is actually to receive God.
Our modern concept of childhood has actually made it easier for us to get Jesus’ point in this story, I think. We can look at the children around us, whether our children or grandchildren or even the kids in our congregation, and see how they can point us to God. Children in our society are no longer invisible; but this story asks us to reflect on the question—who is invisible to us now?