Jesus said (Matt. 19:14), “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” What is it about little children that makes them a hardship for adults to bear? Why do adults sometimes feel they must ‘suffer little children’? Is it that children move so fast? Perhaps it is because they are hungry for knowledge. They have an appetite for answers that can exhaust those they question.
As young boys my friends and I would flit like tiny birds from one inquisitive hobby to another. For a time it was tadpoles, then various bugs, later egg-eating snakes. One day it was silkworms. I do not recall who first had them; it was not me. But my friend shared with me a few worms. It does not take much to excite a child, their eyes fill with wonder as they gaze each day on a world opening like a flower before the sunny curiosity of their minds.
Silkworms have soft, white backs that are a pleasure to touch. I recall feeling how I needed to refrain for fear that my tender attentions would polish their skin right off. My silkworms were tenaciously devoted to one thing alone: to eat. Their concentration was formidable, their appetite voracious. Nothing could deter them from their gastronomic obsession.
We fed them various foods, settling on leaves of mulberry and beet plants for a regular diet to swell their fat little backs. The former resulted in the worms spinning thread golden as the ray of noon sunlight, the latter in shades of dusky sunset. They were beautiful.
Why were they such avid eaters? What could motivate them to such culinary heroics? They ate with purpose. But the purpose was not their own. Made unreasoning creatures, not merely unwilling but unable to rise to the dignity of argument, they ate from compulsion. They ate because God produced in them this voracious instinct.
And then, suddenly, without warning, the worm grew quiet and sluggish, mastered by some new urge. Marshaling all its energy – the worm knew not why – for the trial, it waited some secret signal then acted without hesitation, building its cocoon with the same enthusiastic effort it had before applied to its nutrition. Worms don’t wonder why. Humans do.
Adults must ‘suffer little children’ because it is needful for them to know the truth. They seek it with appetite and energy, in satisfying their curiosity, that is shameless, and seemingly bottomless. Nothing is beyond the reach of their curiosity. The healthy child feels a near insatiable urge to know. Delighted to have floods of information pour into their minds, they exhaust the adults around them with torrents of questions and observations. It is to the advantage of a parent to know that it is natural, in a healthy child, to inquire. We must be willing, therefore, to create circumstances to exercise their intense curiosity in order that they may come to Christ.
It is striking that adults who were once children — though few remember it — have often lost the childlike zest for life. At what point do children grow up and become adults with more enthusiasm for antidepressants, Botox, and antioxidants than for the marvelous arrangement of God’s reality? Even a child who knows pain remains open to the pleasures of God’s creation. But adults often seem jaded and more consciously self-focused. God’s word reminds us to cultivate a spirit of inquiry and wonder at the glorious creation. He points us frequently to the wonders of creation, and creation’s God.
We need not be worms, though we can learn from them. Simple creatures as the ant, stork, dove, and so on (Prov. 6:6; Jer. 8:7) teach us to strive to fulfill the meaning of our lives, to come unto the Lord and serve Him. If we want to see better then we need to recover again the eyes of a child. “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children” (Eph. 5:1).