Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

Fifth Grader

Matthew 11:25 “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”

In the previous verses Jesus pronounced woes upon the towns and villages of Galilee that had received his ministry, seen his miracles, and yet the majority of people had not put their faith in him. They saw Jesus, saw him with their own eyes, but they didn’t see God’s Son. They didn’t see their Savior. The truth about Jesus was hidden from many. They failed to understand the true meaning of Jesus.

Nor was it necessarily an advantage to be “wise and learned” to understand these things. They were the very people from whom Jesus’ person and purpose were hidden. It’s not that God the Father was trying to prevent them from knowing Jesus. The problem was that they would accept Jesus as Savior only if he met their criteria. And by nature anyone who knows anything believes that the only way to be saved is by your good works, and that the only reason for a Savior would be to show you how. All the world’s great minds have thought that way. In order for these people to see Jesus as Savior, then, God would have to change his plan of salvation. He would have to abandon grace, and that wasn’t going to happen. So Jesus’ real identity and purpose were hidden from them.

There is nothing wrong with great learning in and of itself. Ignorance certainly doesn’t serve the purposes of Christianity. But man’s pride turns his great learning against God. He starts to think he has it all figured out. You often hear people promote “thinking outside the box.” Spiritually, the “wise and learned” create a box for themselves out of all their knowledge. They think they know more than they do. They can’t think outside a box of their own making, and they end up imprisoning themselves in there. When God’s word comes along with a different idea, they can’t accept it. When Jesus comes along as God’s Son and Savior, they can’t see it.

But the Father has revealed Jesus to little children. Their minds aren’t so cluttered with skeptical ideas, or so full of pride in their own opinions. Have you ever seen the musical You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown? There is a scene in which Lucy is teaching her little brother Linus “little known facts” about the world, and Linus is just soaking it all in. She tells him that fir trees give us fur for coats, hydrants grow out of the ground on their own, the stars and planets make the rain, and the snow comes up out of the ground like the grass, then it blows around to make it look like its falling. Linus doesn’t question her. He believes every word just because she says so. He takes it all with a child-like faith.

Of course, our God would never deceive us like that. But he reveals Jesus to little children, and the child-like who believe every word just because he says so. “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so,” is not a theology of which they feel a need to be ashamed, nor a theology on which they feel a need to improve. They know Jesus because of God’s revelation.

Are we the wise and learned, or are we the little children? Does it offend us to be thought of as simple? Does it embarrass us if others suggest that we have an “unsophisticated” approach to the Bible because we simply believe what it says? When one of our African missionaries took a call back to the United States, and he got some of his first experiences with counseling here, he was shocked by the reaction of some he counseled. In Africa if he quoted Scripture, that counsel was taken with unquestioning acceptance. Some of those with whom he counseled here just looked at him as though those words meant nothing at all.

None of us wants others to think of us as simple or unsophisticated. We certainly don’t want to believe that we are evil to the core and need God’s grace.  “Wise and learned” sounds more like a compliment to us. It makes us sound good. “Little children” sounds more like an insult.

But if we know Jesus, it is not because we are so smart. The world’s kind of wisdom and learning lead us in a hellish direction away from knowing Jesus. You know Jesus because God’s word convinced you that you need a Savior from sin, and that Jesus is just the Savior you need.

Comedian Jeff Foxworthy has exposed the ignorance of many adults on his quiz show Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?. Jesus exposed the spiritual ignorance of many learned adults throughout his ministry. But the little children know. Don’t try to be smarter, because “the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

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