The Catholic Letter

Catholic Explanations

What They Mean By Child Like Faith

Try to bear with me on this.  Start with the old proverb:

"A Fool Receiveth Not The Words Of Prudence: Unless Thou Say Those Things Which Are In His Heart" Prv:18:2

So what does that say about us? We all like to be told we’re right. We all like to hear how smart we are. We all want confirmation. Most of us hate it when someone points out when we’re wrong.

children_reading.gifIf you pick up the Bible, and don’t come away thinking yourself a fool, you’re not paying attention. Because every book of the Bible is full of passages that show us how foolish we are. The book of proverbs particularly points out our intellectual limitations.

Does God really have a fetish for identifying our flaws? Like a father who can never admit his son turned out all right? Yes and no. It all hangs on that quote from Christ: “Mk:10:15 Amen I say to you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall not enter into it.”

A lot of people misinterpret that to mean learning and understanding our faith is fruitless. They confuse the word “childlike” for “simplistic”, but the two have very different meanings. Anyone who has children realizes that they aren’t simple at all. But what about them are we suppose to imitate?

The Father / Son Relationship

Remember that Christ compares God’s relationship with us to the relationship between a father and son. In this case, the son would be a child. And a child has to rely on the wisdom and knowledge of his father for everything he has (remember that when Jesus is speaking, the father was the common provider in the household).

Providing is only one of the father’s functions. A good father guides his son to safety, and sometimes forces him there. Why? Because a child doesn’t always know what will harm him and what won’t. The child thinks he wants cookies for supper…the father knows that this would harm him. The obedient son accepts his father’s authority, even if he doesn’t understand it.

But the ignorance doesn’t release the child from responsibility. The father might use his authority to lay a foundation, but expects the son to some day understand the reasons behind his actions. The father expects his son to grow and mature…but always realize his own inferiority to the father. Always ready to accept his father’s direction.

It’s the same with God and us. We’re not so much commanded to accept our foolishness (or simplicity) but to realize it and accept the Christ’s authority when we disagree. Sometimes this means accepting the rule of Christ’s Church, and is an act of will. Sometimes, it’s forced upon us. Like when we face some disaster and wonder “How could God let this happen to me?”

This is what it means to have child-like faith. This is how we’ll enter into heaven. And this is why the Bible constantly points out our foolishness. Because in the shadow of God, our own intellect and knowledge of what’s good for us isn’t always focused. And the more we realize it, the more it becomes our duty to gain that understanding, but accept authority until we do