To be saved, one must become as a little child. Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). Jesus was not encouraging us to become spoiled, self-absorbed, brats given to fist-banging tantrums. No, in fact, Jesus explained exactly what childlike characteristic we are to incorporate. “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (v. 4).
The realization of helplessness, humility of submission, and desire for dependency is the issue in this directive. And, this attitude flies in the face of our “it’s-all-about-me” culture. We labor under the delusion that we are self-reliant and independent; we like to think of ourselves as capable of pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps, hoeing our own row and making our own way, and we certainly take credit for the self-made product, simultaneously absolving ourselves of any and all responsibility for the damaged product this mindset renders. This kind of thinking has no place in Christianity.
In order to become a child of God, we must understand salvation to be a product of God’s grace; meritorious works are ineffectual. The idea that we can earn passage through the “Pearly Gates” is a pernicious lie. Jesus said: “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do” (Luke 17:10, KJV). No matter what we do or can do (and we must choose to do what God says do), this obedient, submissive approach to God graciously concedes that it is God who saves the little child.