The story of the little children coming to Jesus in Matthew 19, Mark 10, and Luke 18 is, of course, well know. And most often I have heard it interpreted that the kingdom requires faith like a child. Yet the word "faith" doesn't appear in any of these accounts; so I'm wondering if this is the right interpretation.

In Mathew and Mark the pericope follows Jesus' teaching on divorce, which seems like a kind of unrelated matter (though, I'm willing to be proven wrong); while in Luke it is preceded but the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector. However, in all three accounts, the story of the children coming to Jesus is immediately followed by the story of the young rich ruler. Matthew even seems to explicitly connect the events writing, "και ιδου."

Does the story of the young rich ruler help shed light on what it means to receive the kingdom of God like a little child? And if so how?

  • Interesting, I'd have to take a look into this myself!! I'll let you know what I find if I do. +1 for good question.
    – Chris Bier
    Mar 22, 2012 at 4:51

3 Answers 3


The rich young ruler would be an antitype of the little child. A little child (παιδίον) will rely entirely on their parent. The rich young ruler was instead relying on his own riches. God calls us to give up this world and instead be dependent on Him.


I totally agree with Nathan, that was one of the first things I saw as well.

I'd like to note that he was saddened when he was asked to sell his possessions and give to the poor. I see this as a big indicator of pride.

So not only was he not child-like in his reliance on God, he was not child like in terms of his humility.


What does it mean to “receive the kingdom of God like a little child?”

To be an apostle of Jesus ,and thus a candidate for the kingdom of heaven , one needs to exhibit the qualities of a young child, so the term "like a little child" means to have such qualities that children usually exhibit,humility innocence ,teachable, trustful, and inquisitiveness.

The Little Children and Jesus (Matthew 9:13-15 NIV)

13 Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.

14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.

Such qualities are extremely rare in grown ups today, Paul characterizes todays generation as follows:

2Timothy 3:1-4 (NIV)

1 "But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God."

The rich young ruler.

Expressions from various translations like "Just then" (NIV), " A man came" (NLV) and "Some one came", (NASB) indicates that is is a coincidence and not a follow up to the "little children"

The Rich and the Kingdom of God . (Matthew 16, 21,22 NIV)

16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” 21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

The rich young ruler was under obligation to help the needy ( Isaiah 58:6-7, Proverbs 28:27) but his obvious unwillingness to give his material possessions to help others, and become a follower of Jesus prevented him from entering the Kingdom of God.

Notice that Jesus did not simply tell him, sell you possessions, but also told him "come follow me".

This does not mean that christians cannot have material wealth,the scriptures advice to keep wealth in its proper perspective, and be generous to others.

Illustration with refence to a camel.Matthew 19:23-24

Obviously it should not be taken literally, Jesus simply pointed that just as it it not possible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, likewise it is not possible for someone to enter the kingdom of heaven whilst clinging on to his material possessions.

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