Jesus' Reverse Psychology

Monday, March 28, 2022
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Mark 9:35b-36a – [Jesus] said, "Whoever who wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else." Then he put a little child among them. (NLT)

"But we're only twelve years old."

I've heard this statement — or variations of it — numerous times. One of my tasks as a middle-school English teacher entails instilling responsibility in the students. At their age, most of them buck my efforts. Even though I give them due dates for their projects and papers on the first day of class, most of them never look at the syllabus again. They'd rather ask me and depend on me to remind them.

Although the school handbook states that students must consult their teachers about make-up work, many fail to do so and receive a reduction in their grades or even zeros. Some parents think that we're overly tough on their young children, but we know that teaching children responsibility — even when it stings — will benefit them later in life.

Jesus, however, used reverse psychology. While on the way to Capernaum, His disciples argued about which of them was the greatest. Ironically, Jesus didn't say that it was the one who was the most responsible but rather the one who was most dependent. And He put a child in their midst to demonstrate it.

Jesus' intention was a little different. Total dependence on someone else is risky and unhealthy. Total dependence on Him is essential and spiritually healthy. Children, at least initially, have total trust in their parents. Jesus wants the same from us. Total trust leads to a spiritually fulfilled life. Jesus will never disappoint us and will always guide us in the right direction.

In the same way that students often expect their teachers to answer all their questions, children often think that their parents know everything. Later, they discover that they didn't. Jesus, on the other hand, does know all things. He is omniscient. Since He knows all things — past, present, and future — we can place our total trust in Him.

Children also think that their parents can do everything. Hearing "I thought that you knew how to do everything," when children discover that their parents aren't all-knowing isn't that unusual. Jesus, however, can do all things. He's all powerful — omnipotent.

Perhaps most basic of all, children believe that their parents will care for them — now and forever. Many do; unfortunately, many don't. Jesus always will. He never abandons His children.

Are we trusting Christ like a child?

Prayer: Father, help us to trust You as children do their parents. Amen.

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About the author:

Martin Wiles <>
Greenwood, South Carolina, USA

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    Thank you.

    Amen Martin. How did your trip and visit go?

    Really helps me today, Martin. Gets right down to the basics as you intended it should. Thank you.

    Good morning, Martin. Thank you for your faithful writing of devotionals. But even more so, thank you for teaching children not just facts, but also life lessons.

    Hello Martin,
    Thanks for your devotional today. Trust seems to be the theme for me today, as it has come up in three different places! I appreciate your words.

    Thank you so much and as God leads don’t stop ok, until we all get home. This “job” from love is SO valuable in Jesus’ name.
    (Catholic Christians pray “Divine Mercy” prayer a lot in Lent, etc. It’s meditative about trusting Jesus)

    Thanks, Martin, for delivering another very mindful devotional to us. Yes, as a young child seeks assistance from a parent to help them in a situation, we can trust our loving Saviour to help us through any circumstance we face. He is ever there for us and so deserving of our thankful praise. Blessings for this writing and blessings as you continue to do writings.

    Martin, you wrote: “Perhaps most basic of all, children believe that their parents will care for them — now and forever. Many do; unfortunately, many don’t. Jesus always will. He never abandons His children.” Thank God He never abandons us!
    Just to add a thought. Unfortunately, some parents do attempt to “care for” their children “now and forever”! The result can be disastrous for the child. We parents owe it to our children to encourage them to stand on their own two feet… with God’s help, of course! And although we never completely abandon them, we must never encourage them to be clingy! They truly need to grow up… for their own ultimate good! This I know from our own family’s experience.

    Trust in the Lord – Seek His guidance in prayer.

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