Receiving like a Child
“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.” Mark 10:13-16 ESV
I recently got pneumonia, and if you’ve had it before you know it’s pretty rough. I’ve always been susceptible to pneumonia, so I’ve had it multiple times in the past as a kid. But having pneumonia as an adult feels really, really different.
I was having trouble doing basic things like taking out our puppy, and getting tired so easily. I needed a lot of help because all I could do was rest and heal. I was suddenly incapable of taking care of myself, and I had to rely on other people’s help. When I was a kid, I remember being at home with my parents checking in on me when I was up at night coughing. I remember them bringing me food and making me drink and eat things. I remember them taking me to the doctor, and reminding me to take medicine at the right times. But I don’t think I felt the way about it I do now.
I guess, as we grow up, it’s a little bit more difficult to receive help and assistance. When I told my family I had pneumonia again, my family ordered us groceries online and sent them right to our door so we wouldn’t have to worry about going out. Jackson worked from home to make sure I was ok, and to help me with all those basic daily tasks I couldn’t take care of on my own anymore. Everyone was checking in on me and asking how they could help.
As a kid, I don’t think I noticed how much people were helping me because I was kind of used to it. That’s what being a kid is all about. You can’t tie your own shoes, you need someone to cook for you, you don’t know left from right and you need someone telling you where you need to be, when you need to be there, and you just hop in the minivan knowing they’re going to get you where you need to go.
You aren’t concerned with meeting your own needs, because you’re being taken care of by someone else who you can trust and rely on for all of those things.
I think it’s fair to say that kids are kind of needy. When I got sick, that’s how I felt again and I wasn’t used to it. I needed a lot from other people, and I had to say yes and receive it because I didn’t have a better option. Because of how incapable I was of meeting my own needs, I became incredibly willing to receive from other people. I needed help, so I eagerly welcomed it and received it.
This gave me a new perspective on what it might look like to receive the kingdom like a child. Maybe this is just a me thing, but whenever I read the verses about receiving the kingdom like a child I think it just means receive it joyfully and innocently, like you would if you were still on the playground jumping rope and having your favorite popsicle.
But as I’ve been reflecting on what receiving has looked like for me lately, I’ve realized how differently it feels to receive when we’re grown up. When I was a kid I was eager to receive, trusting of the people who took care of me, I didn’t shy away from asking for help when I needed it. As an adult, we shake that attitude off and decide we should take care of ourselves and never ask for help.
Receiving help or guidance or a gift even, becomes a strange and uncomfortable thing.
I wonder if Jesus was thinking about this when He was thinking about children. Kids just receive. They ask for help when they need it, often repeatedly. They’re super capable of admitting they need help, and they will keep telling you how they feel openly and honestly until you help them. I think back to my babysitting days and the constant, “I’m hungry” or “I’m bored.”
One commentary I read labeled this posture of childlikeness as the “absence of intellectual pride.” Kids don’t think they know better, they’re not ashamed of it either. Kids will believe almost anything you say (hello cookie eating bearded man coming down the chimney…) and they take it to heart. They’re open and receptive and admittedly unaware of what to do next, how to do it, or what steps to take to get there.
In adult life, we’re shy about needing things. We’re nervous to say yes when someone offers to do something for us, because we have to admit that we can’t do it for ourselves in the process. But what does receiving the kingdom like a child look like?
Maybe when we receive the kingdom like children, that means being a little bit needy. It means being eager to receive, not having any reservations about needing help, just being open to the fact that we can’t take care of ourselves but we know someone who can.
I think it’s being trusting like a kid—knowing that God is going to get us to where we need to go, and we can’t get there on our own. We need Him just like we need moms to take us to soccer practice on time, and we also need them to pack our bags so we don’t forget our cleats. With an absence of intellectual pride, we can say it’s alright that we don’t fully understand, we can admit that we don’t and maybe we never will, but still move in the Spirit with a trusting obedience and hopeful anticipation and still make the game winning goal.
There’s something really special about that posture, being a little needy, more trusting, more capable of easily receiving. That’s how I think Jesus wants us to receive the kingdom. I’ve talked about the kingdom before, so just as a refresher the kingdom of God is God’s will and God’s promises fulfilled on earth.
Let’s receive that like children, with that open receptivity and trusting, dependent attitude saying, We need you God. We want your kingdom. We don’t know a better way. We need your way.
-Have you thought about receiving the kingdom like a child? What does it make you think of?
-How do you receive? Is it easy or difficult? What does it look like to be open to receiving?
-What impact would receiving the kingdom like a child have in your life and community?
Hey Father, Thank you for being a good God who looks after us, takes care of our every need, and always knows how to lead us in perfect timing. We are so grateful to be your children. Help us to receive your kingdom with a childlike spirit. Make us people who are open, receptive, and willing to receive all that you have for us. We are eager for more of you! Amen.