Mark 10:15 “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all.”
Kids write the greatest letters. One little girl wrote: “Dear God, thank you for the baby brother but what I prayed for was a puppy.” Liam penciled this message: “Dear Brody, Miss P made me write you this note. All I want to say sorry for is not being sorry cause I tried to feel sorry but I don’t.”
When Jesus urges us to “receive the kingdom of God like a child” we usually think of the best qualities of kids in our experience: innocence, dependence, transparency, and trust. Our minds drift to those cutest moments that we can imagine, and we read them back into what Jesus said. Surely this is what He had in mind.
But in the ancient world, and particularly in the audience to whom Jesus spoke, children could be more of a liability than an asset. Any household deep in poverty and scratching to survive knew that a small child was another mouth to feed, perhaps at the expense of the fit and the strong. At times, this meant that children were deemed less valuable than even the slaves in the household. When survival was at stake, children were expendable and replaceable. They occupied the lowest rung on the social ladder.
To become like little children is not to be innocent or trusting, but to accept the lowest place; to be entirely humble (see Matthew 18:3-4).
Thus, humility rises as one of the most honored virtues in the Kingdom of God. The irony, of course, is evident. The last shall be first and the least shall be the greatest, though we should know that humility as a means to honor is no humility at all.
This Lenten season challenges the sin and pride within us all. These forty days of testing have a way of revealing hidden motives within us. How much do we want others to notice us? Can we really say, “Not my will but Yours be done”?
I love kids. Most of us do. And perhaps that’s why “coming like little children” appeals to some of us. Surely it would make us delightfully irresistible, even to God.
But Jesus called His disciples — calls us — to ruthless self-examination and consistent humility. And in that posture, we discover (quite unexpectedly) the flourishing life.