Jesus said the kingdom belongs to the childlike, so what does this mean for us grown-ups?
As someone who spends a lot of time surrounded by children, I often think about a passage in the Gospel of Mark. For a long time, Jesus’ words there left me confused. Here’s what he says:
And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them. (Mark 10:2-16)
At first impression, there’s a lot to love about this passage. “Let the children come to me”! Isn’t that what every parent longs to hear? In a world that seems increasingly hostile to children, Jesus gives us a radiant example of welcoming these little ones with love.
On closer inspection, though, I was mystified by Christ’s meaning here. Jesus said we need to imitate little children and learn from their faith. But at face value, it seems that the opposite is true: Children need to imitate adults. They need to learn from us not to hit each other over a toy or throw a tantrum because they can’t have ice cream for breakfast. Teaching them these things is a real uphill battle, too.
So what does it mean when Christ tells us to “accept the kingdom of God like a child”? As with everything Jesus said, there are layers of meaning here.
Praying about Jesus’ words has brought me so many insights over the years. The more I’ve reflected on this passage, the more I’ve learned from it.
Perhaps the most important meaning is that we must be utterly dependent on God, as a baby is totally dependent on its parents. When we try to call the shots and tightly control the course of our lives, we run into inevitable disappointments and endless frustrations.
But when we surrender that control to God, He charts a path far more magnificent than we could ever have imagined. So accepting God’s all-powerful kingship like a baby accepts its parents’ care is key to happiness and fulfillment.
Besides childlike trust, there are so many other spiritual lessons we adults can learn from children, too. Inspired by Christ’s command, here are 5 ways that adults can “accept the kingdom of God like a child.”