November 17, 2016 • Life for Leaders
When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
This story from Mark begins with parents bringing their children to Jesus so that he might touch and bless them. But the disciples of Jesus, figuring that he had more important things to do, told the parents to take their children away. Jesus, seeing what his disciples were doing, became angry. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (10:14). Then Jesus “took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them” (10:16).
In the kingdom of God, children are a priority, not a nuisance. Those who were powerless in the culture of Jesus – children, widows, aliens, the poor – had God as their protector. Therefore, the citizens of God’s kingdom were called to exercise special care and concern for them. Children matter to the King of kings, and so they should matter to those of us who are his subjects, whether we live in the first century or the twenty-first century.
Yet, Jesus used the situation with the children to illustrate a further point about the kingdom. Not only were actual children to be given priority, but also everyone who wished to receive the kingdom must become like a child. We enter God’s kingdom with eagerness and vulnerability, with dependence and powerlessness. As we put our lives in God’s hands, relying on his grace and mercy, he embraces us and welcomes us home. Thus, in the picture of Jesus holding and blessing the children, we see a poignant picture of how God welcomes us.
Leaders in the marketplace generally don’t advance in their careers by majoring in eagerness and vulnerability, with dependence and powerlessness. We aspire to be strong, visionary, independent, and powerful. Thus, we can feel a strong tension between what our work expects of us and what our Lord expects of us. There is no quick and simple resolution to this tension. Rather, we live into it with hearts that seek God’s guidance and with the support of our sisters and brothers in Christ, especially those who share in our struggle.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Can you relate to the disciples of Jesus in this story? Are there times when you consider children to be more of a nuisance than anything else?
Have you received the kingdom of God as a child?
What parts of you resist being a childlike recipient of God’s kingdom?
How have you experienced the embrace of the King of kings?
Gracious God, how easy it is for us grown ups to minimize the importance of children. We can see them more as a bother than as an opportunity to love and bless them in your name. Forgive us when we fail to treat children in a way that reflects the values of your kingdom.
Help me, Lord, to receive and live in your kingdom as a child. When I think I can serve you in my own strength, help me to remember to lean into you, to rest in your arms like a child. When I feel weak and helpless, may I turn to you for strength.
Thank you, dear Lord, for embracing and accepting me as your child. Thank you for loving me as my Heavenly Father. Thank you for the privilege of being part of your family. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: Status (Mark 10:13-16, 22)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.