November 10, 2016 • Life for Leaders
[Jesus] took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I offered an illustration of servant leadership. As you may recall if you read that devotion, it was mainly a story written by my son, Nathan, of his first encounter with Howard E. Butt, Jr. Howard, the President of the H.E. Butt Family Foundation, meeting Nathan in a relatively small living room on the Foundation property, insisted that Nathan sit in a comfortable couch while Howard chose a most uncomfortable child-size chair for himself. What a sweet and powerful picture of servant leadership!
That same story would be a fitting illustration for today’s text from the Gospel of Mark. In this passage, Jesus picked up a child and embraced the child. Then he said, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me” (9:37). See what I mean about Nathan’s story as a fitting illustration? Howard welcomed Nathan, giving him the best seat in the house.
According to Jesus, this meant a lot not only to Nathan, but also to Jesus and, indeed, our Heavenly Father. Howard didn’t just welcome a child. He welcomed Jesus and the Father because they identify so profoundly with children.
Why children? Not just because they are cute and sweet and say silly things. God’s identification with children has more to do with their social location, their lack of power and prestige. Throughout the Scriptures, God consistently identifies with people like this, with those who are poor, fatherless, widows, and aliens. So, for example, in Proverbs 19:17 we read, “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD.”
Those of us in positions of power have a particular responsibility to welcome those who lack power. We who have status in society should reach out to those who do not have status. If you don’t know where to begin, you could always start with children. That’s what Jesus did.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Have you ever experienced the kind of welcome we see in Mark 9:36-37? If so, when? How did it feel?
Can you think of times when you welcomed – truly welcomed – people who lack power, status, or wealth?
How might you imitate the example of Jesus in your work today?
Lord Jesus, thank you for welcoming into your presence those who are not important people in our world. They are important to you, though!
Thank you for welcoming me as one of your disciples. What an undeserved honor!
Help me, Lord, to imitate you in the way I welcome others. May I open my arms and my life to others, especially those who can’t repay me. May your kind of welcome become embodied in our institutions: in businesses and churches, in schools and cities.
To you be all the glory! Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: Being Rich in the Best Way of All
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.