“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.
In the 21st century, when we think about children, we tend to focus on their subjective qualities; they are cute and cuddly, and at times we mistakenly think they are perfect and the center of the universe. Such contemporary views of children actually hinder our ability to grasp what Jesus meant when he said, “Let the children come to me.”
It is the objective characteristics of children that are truly at the heart of Jesus’ illustration. Children do not vote. They do not have driver’s licenses. Adults don’t often ask them to make decisions regarding significant events in their own lives or in the lives of their families. In their infancy, they are entirely dependent on someone else. Put bluntly, little children are small and helpless, without much apparent outward claim or merit.
Isn’t it a wonder, then, that children are so warmly received by Jesus? But while it’s certainly wondrous, it shouldn’t surprise us when we consider how often God uses the meek and lowly in mighty ways. We cannot hope to enter heaven because of our own merit or self-worth. Instead, the kingdom of God belongs to people who are needy, lonely, and helpless, who have no claim or merit on their own—people just like children.
As we come to terms with what it means to be like a child, we start to see that our entrance into the kingdom can only come after we’ve accepted our own helpless, dependent state. We come to Christ not with hands full of our own abilities or achievements but with empty hands, ready to receive. And remarkably, the gospel tells us that we must look to God Himself, who took on flesh as a helpless babe. It’s only fitting, then, that entry into His kingdom would be enjoyed by those who follow His humble example.
Jesus’ embrace of the children in these verses both flattens our pride and picks us up in our weakness. Perhaps you regard your work as commendable or your position as noteworthy, and you find yourself desiring to be a benefactor and not a beneficiary. Or maybe you know that others think very little of you (or you think little of yourself), and you are surprised that God would want to give you anything, let alone be looking forward to spending eternity with you. No matter what your character or your circumstances are, come to Jesus each day in childlike trust, aware of your weakness and helplessness. This, and only this, is the way into His kingdom and the way to enjoy the blessing of closeness to Him.
Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg,