Every Sunday morning, I teach a class of Mormon preschoolers about the New Testament, with a focus on the life of Jesus Christ. Mormon is a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Sunday before last, we talked about what happened when Christ called his disciples. I don’t know what the children remember of what I taught them, but I will always remember what they taught me that day.
This group of children is especially bright. They love learning the stories of Jesus and they really think about the topics we discuss. They ask difficult questions that dispel the myth that teaching religion to preschoolers is a good job for beginners.
We noted that the men Jesus called were usually busy at the moment Jesus arrived to issue His call. In Matthew 4:18, we learn that Jesus found two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew, casting their nets for fish. He called out to them and said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew then reports: “And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.”
He then goes on to find James and John, also brothers. They are in a ship mending nets with their father. He issued his call to the ministry, and in verse 22, we learn, “And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.”
This process continued and each man, issued the call to follow Christ, did so without hesitation. They left “straightway” and “immediately.” The children were discussing the importance of the work some of the men were doing at the time of the call. One girl, however, asked, “But were they really doing something important or did they just think it was important because they didn’t know about Jesus yet?”
This was one of those moments when you understand why God tells us to become like children. Certainly, earning their livelihood seemed important enough at the moment. Without a doubt, they were where they thought they were supposed to be, doing the most important thing they could be doing at that moment. But then Jesus came along and offered them a more important job—but one that didn’t’ pay anything. They instinctively understood that the eternal blessings they could help the Savior to bring about were more important than any number of fish they might catch or the money they might earn.
In comparison to saving eternal lives, catching fish must have seemed incredibly unimportant, no matter how important it had seemed just ten minutes ago. They saw the offer through an eternal lens and everything changed in that moment.
I tried to help the children see this from their own perspective, but it turned out they didn’t need any help. I asked, “Imagine Jesus walked into our room right now and said He needed all of us to follow Him because He had important work to do. Would we go?”
They didn’t hesitate for a moment. “Yes, we’d go with Jesus.”
“But what if you were coloring? Would you tell him you needed to finish your picture first?”
“No, being with Jesus is better than coloring.”
“Better than a snack?”
“Would you ask Him to wait even a minute while you did something?”
“No, we wouldn’t make Jesus wait.”
And that is why I teach little children. They have their priorities straight. Jesus said, “Come follow me.” My students accept that call willingly and enthusiastically. They don’t need to get their affairs in order first, or fit it in when there is nothing more fun to do. If Jesus walked into our classroom and issued a call, they would accept.
“And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:2-4).
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.