We don’t have to settle for a losing life, filling our time with unhealthy relationships, sacrificing our own spiritual and physical well-being for something the world offers. But we often do – even though we have a much better choice. Instead of accepting a loser life, we can embrace a winning life in Christ. All we have to do is act like a child.
Acting like a child… That description gets tossed around, and rarely as a compliment. But Jesus, as He’s known to do, really turned that idea upside down in Mark 10.
In the Jewish world, children weren’t considered to be under the law until they reached the age of 13. A child younger than that wasn’t bound by the law, but also wasn’t given any real standing in society. Jesus, though, came to turn the ritual and regulation of the Jewish law upside down, and this is an example of Him doing exactly that.
Parents brought their children – and by the language, we know this refers to those younger than 13, not yet bound by the law, but also not seen as valued citizens – to Jesus, hoping a touch from Him would impact them.
As we’ve seen them do before, the Disciples reverted to their religious ways, acting out of allegiance to societal norms or a religious default in their thinking, not acting in accordance to what Jesus was teaching them. That this happens in Mark 10 shows us how ingrained that religious and societal thinking was, as Jesus had just spoken to them about children in the preceding chapter. Jesus’ righteous anger toward the Disciples comes out once again as He explains how children are to be seen.
And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
Children are to be seen as an example – an example of how to receive the Kingdom of God. Jesus says we need to act like a child, or we will not enter the Kingdom of God.
Well then, how do children receive things? How can we apply this lesson to our life? It’s pretty simple, really. Children teach us that the best way to live is to:
1. Recognize we didn’t earn and don’t deserve God’s gifts. To do this we have to confess our pride and set it aside. A quick look at Ephesians 2:8-9 reinforces this truth. Then we can accept God’s gift of a life of fullness in place of the life of loss the world offers. Kids do this naturally. For us, it might take some work.
2. Receive God’s gifts with enthusiasm and thankfulness. One way to remap our thinking (so we don’t default to old patterns as the disciples did!) is to begin a daily journey of gratitude. It’s not just a trendy self-help idea, it’s Biblical – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us this. There’s very little that compares to the enthusiasm of a child receiving a gift – let’s quit letting societal norms temper ours!
3. Respond to God in faith. We’ve got to trust Him with our life, holding nothing back. Matthew 7:7-11 reminds us of this – earthly parents generally work to give good gifts to their children. Our Heavenly Father does this even better. His power and authority can be our resting place. Kids model this well – and we can learn from that example.
4. Run to God with reckless abandon. A child running to greet a parent gives us a picture of how we should run to Jesus every single day, with every single celebration or concern. As adults, we often throw ourselves at everything but God, but Hebrews 6:19 reminds us that throwing ourselves at Jesus gives us the peace our lives crave.
5. Remember who our Daddy is. This world gives us an array of idols to worship and thank for our success, to look to for guidance. It’s time we toss those aside in favor of our Heavenly Dad who loves us. He doesn’t just give us stuff, He gives us Himself, His love, His attention, and His affection. Nothing and no one in this world compare to Him.
Children do these things well. And they do them naturally. As we grow up the world does its best to creep in and replace our childlike thinking – our childlike faith – with thought patterns society accepts as mature, or wise. But real wisdom, real winning at life, is found when we act like a child.