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The Stupidest Thing Jesus Ever Said

By Ben Love ~

Jesus is a character known just as much for what he said as what he did. And he said some pretty interesting things. Some of it, I must admit, is pretty good, though none of it was original to him (indeed, the Buddha said nearly all of the same things in a different way 500 years before Jesus was even a thought). Some of it, however, is patently ridiculous. That children, for instance, needed to leave parents and husbands needed to leave wives in order to live the kind of life God wants for them. Or that no one should work to obtain food and provisions. But for me, there is one thing he said that resonates as possibly the stupidest, most absurd utterance of all.

It is found in Matthew, chapter 18, verse 3:
“And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’”

The Christians will argue that this is among the sagest wisdom in the New Testament. “The faith of a child,” they will say, “is a precious thing and we should all endeavor to be like that.”

Uh huh. Except for the fact that, well, children, even the brightest of them, are pretty much clueless. I mean, even if a kid is a born genius he still needs to be taught how to use that ability, how to live and move and operate in society, how to solve problems, how to do simple tasks like tie a shoe or bait a hook. After all, no one comes out of the womb ready to teach college. A child, no matter how smart or capable, does not—cannot—grasp the difficult implications of reality without first having lived in the world and among its people for a sufficient amount of time, thus gaining not only knowledge but experience as well. In other words, even the smartest toddler is still significantly more ignorant than the most doltish adult.

And yet Jesus tells his followers that if they want to have any kind of access to God and his “kingdom,” they need to become like children. Children—who think there are monsters under their beds regardless of how irrational such a belief is. Children—who will believe implicitly in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy—entities which are not real in spite of how fervently children may believe in them. A child knows only what the adults around him teach him, and as we have seen in history, you can implant any kind of erroneous or wicked belief into a small child’s impressionable mind and it will pepper the way he lives his life as an adult. Children will believe anything, no matter how utterly ridiculous it might be. But according to Jesus, this is exactly how God prefers his grown-ups to be.

Think of it this way. Suppose we pull a young boy out of the crowd. 7 years old, say. We run some tests on him and determine that his mental capacities are astronomical, that this boy is in fact one of the smartest humans ever to have lived. Suppose also that he is an incredibly kind, well-behaved, generous, and thoughtful young boy. So, we take this 7-year-old boy and bring him into a room, sit him a chair, and proceed to lay all the problems of the world on him. “Here are the statistics on hunger,” we say. “And look here, this is the number of homeless people in the world.” We show him some footage of what war looks like in Afghanistan, and what the radioactive landscape looks like in post-tsunami Japan. “We are waiting for your answers,” we tell the little boy. And, having said all that, we sit silently, looking at him with expectation.

Children, even the brightest of them, are pretty much cluelessWhat exactly is he supposed to do?

Suppose we take this little boy to a hospital room where a woman is about to have a delicate operation to remove a cancerous brain tumor. And we stop the doctor, move him aside, and bring forth the little boy. “This boy,” we tell the woman, “is better equipped to do this surgery because he is much smarter at 7 than this doctor will ever be his whole life.”

What should the tumorous lady do? Should she say, “Yeah, okay. Doctor, give the scalpel to the kid?”

Obviously, the point here is that the separation between what makes an adult and what makes a child is one of extreme importance. But this distinction, no matter how it might have served to help a woman beat a tumor, no matter how it might have determined how to combat hunger in the world, apparently matters little to he who is known as “the Savior.” Unless we can be like children, we have no hope of getting into heaven.

Again, Christians will say that I’m missing the underlying wisdom here. They’ll no doubt contend that Jesus is referring to faith here, that “child-like faith” is characterized by a simple willingness to openly believe anything, no matter how crazy or odd or even dangerous it might be. And so, when I present my intellectual and rational reasons for choosing atheism rather than belief, Christians will often shake their heads and tut and say something like, “What you don’t understand is that you can only find God by looking past all that intelligent nonsense and finding child-like faith.” That’s interesting, because I can remember being a young boy and convincing my even younger nephew that a witch lived in my basement. He believed this implicitly, with absolutely no data, without a single shred of evidence to suggest that not only were witches real but that I, his uncle, was above pulling a prank on him. His child-like faith might seem commendable to some Christians, but you know what? There was no witch living in my basement. His faith, no matter how commendable, was leading him astray. And that’s just a small, insignificant example. Put this on a larger scale and you can see how multitudes of adults might believe anything—that there is a spaceship flying behind a comet, for instance; or that by drinking the “special punch” you can escape to another dimension of peace and everlasting tranquility. And let us not forget this salient fact: we cannot even know how many instances of “child-like faith” led some young boy or girl straight into the backseat of a killer’s car. I guess it doesn’t matter how many lambs are led to the slaughter, as long as they are dumb enough to never figure out their fate beforehand. And I’m sure there have been many kids killed by pedophiles who were at the top of their class.

But be like a child, please. So says Jesus. Because that’s how God prefers you. Indeed, it would seem that regardless of how stunning this God made the human mind, he would ask you not to use it, for if you do, you have no hope of ever being saved by him.

No. This, for me, is the stupidest thing Jesus ever said.


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