- How do you put a giraffe into a refrigerator? The correct answer is, “Open the refrigerator, put in the giraffe, and close the door.” This question tests whether you do simple things in an overly complicated way.
- How do you put an elephant into a refrigerator? The wrong answer is, “Open the refrigerator, put in the elephant, and close the door.” The correct answer is, “Open the refrigerator, take out the giraffe, put in the elephant, and close the door.” This tests your ability to think through the repercussions of your actions.
- The Lion King is hosting an animal conference. All the animals attend except one. Which animal does not attend? The correct answer is “the elephant,” because the elephant is in the refrigerator. This tests your memory.
- There is a river you must cross, but it is inhabited by crocodiles. How do you cross the river? The correct answer is, “You swim across.” The crocodiles are attending the animal meeting. This tests whether you learn from your mistakes.
According to this completely untrustworthy source, 90 percent of potential managers answer the questions wrong. Preschoolers, however, do well. This disproves the theory that bosses have the brains of 4-year-olds.
We become management material too fast. We spend our days measuring giraffes and refrigerators. We wring our hands when an elephant needs to be refrigerated. We plan conferences and worry that not everyone will attend. We have rivers to cross and crocodiles waiting.
Some of us are too young to feel this old. We are buying more aspirins, coffee and Tums. We are losing, and the competition is getting younger. Noted theologian Garth Brooks put it like this: “All the cards are on the table, no ace left in the hole.”
Every once in a while we need a child to crawl into our lap and remind us what it means to be human.
Jesus is having another long day. The disciples, who have rooms for rent upstairs but they are unfurnished, are not catching on as fast as he hoped. Jesus’ mother and brothers keep trying to take Jesus home to Nazareth to build end tables. Someone from the university is usually waiting with a trick question. Just once Jesus would like to teach something without a legalist with a Windsor knot trying to pick it apart.
Several mothers, grandmothers and aunts have been watching Jesus touch the sick, poor and unnoticed. They bring their children to Jesus to bless them. Jesus never resists a parent who uses the words, “my daughter” or “my son.” Everything is pushed aside for children.
The disciples know that Jesus is having a hard time. He does not need to be bouncing babies on his knees when there are parables to write, people to heal and a world to save. What they do not recognize is that Jesus needs these children.
The disciples begin telling mothers, “This isn’t a good time.”
Jesus says, “Hold on,” with his hand on a child’s shoulder should she try to make a run for it: “You’re always asking, ‘Who’s the greatest?’ Unless you become like children, you’ll never enter the kingdom.”
People scratch their heads: “Become like a child? What could he possibly mean?”
One mother thinks, “If Jesus wants me to become like a child, then he doesn’t know my Tyler.”
What we need to emulate is the way that children laugh, cry, dance and fall asleep almost at the same time. The key to becoming like children is understanding that we are children.
Over the last 26 years I have spent a lot of time waiting for my children — not nearly as much time as Carol, but a significant amount of time. I waited for the bus. I waited for basketball practice to end. I waited so we could eat dinner together.
Now my sons are out of the house — one a lawyer and one at college — and I wait for them to respond to texts or answer an email. I wait and wonder: How is work? Did the test go well? Is he having a good time?
When my sons come home they are pumped for information: “How is everything? Who’s your favorite teacher? Are you bringing a girl home for Christmas?”
They roll their eyes on that last one, but it is not that I am nosy. I am a parent, so I want them to have wonderful lives.
When Jesus said, “Become like children,” he meant the children of an interested heavenly parent. God waits for us like a loving parent who wants us to have wonderful lives. We become like children when we see that we are God’s children.
Groucho Marx said: “My mother loved children. She would have given anything if I had been one.”
God feels the same way. BT
By Brett Younger
—Brett Younger is associate professor of preaching at Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology.