“And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.” Mark 10:13-16 KJV
Imagine for a moment what it must have been like to be a follower of Jesus when he walked this earth. How incredible it would have been to listen to the teachings of Jesus. And if you had children, you would have wanted them to meet Jesus, too. You would have brought them along with you to hear his teachings. Perhaps you would have longed to have them blessed by the Messiah you’d come to believe in.
That’s exactly what happened in this story. Followers of Jesus brought their young children to Jesus. They simply wanted their children to be touched and blessed by him. If you’re a parent, you can identify with that. You want your child’s life touched and blessed by Jesus. It’s your greatest prayer and desire.
That’s all these people want, but when they brought their children up to Jesus, the disciples scolded them for bothering him. But Jesus saw what was going on and was displeased with his disciples, telling them to allow the children to come to him. Not only did Jesus welcome the children, but he used them as a lesson for his disciples, telling them, “for such is the kingdom of God…whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein…”
Jesus went on to hold these children in his lap, put his arms around them, put his hands on them, and bless them. It’s a moment that’s often portrayed in beautiful paintings, the image of Jesus with the children. It’s a lovely picture, but there’s an important lesson here for all of us. Jesus says that unless we receive the kingdom of God as a little child, we’re not going to make it.
Becoming childlike. That’s the ticket to the kingdom of God. It’s what’s required of us if we want to enjoy God’s blessings. Webster defines childlike as “resembling, suggesting or appropriate to a child or childhood, especially marked by innocence, trust, and ingenuousness.” And there’s so much we can learn from children. To grow in grace, we need to become childlike in our faith, and the following are three important spiritual lessons we can learn from children.
With a Child, What You See is What You Get
Children are genuine. With kids, what you see is what you get. They’ve haven’t learned to put on masks and layers yet. Ask kids a question, and they’ll give you an honest – sometimes a brutally honest – opinion. They’re completely transparent. Children have no problem letting the world know what they’re thinking and feeling.
As we grow up and become adults, we tend to start protecting ourselves with layers of deception. We build walls to keep ourselves safe. We wear masks to protect our image. Instead of being genuine and real, it becomes easy to portray a certain image that we want people to see. Just look at the social media accounts of many adults. It becomes so easy to edit our life, to only show the best, to create something that’s not even real so we keep up the persona we want people to see. Some people have added so many layers and built so many walls, it’s likely they don’t even know who they really are anymore. And it becomes easy to keep the walls up with everyone, even God.
That’s not what Jesus wants from us. Jesus doesn’t want some image we’ve built. He wants us to be real, with him and with the world. When we come to Jesus, he wants to strip away our layers and knock down those walls until our hearts are stripped bare before him. Jesus wants complete transparency. He wants honesty. He wants us to be childlike. The truth is that we can’t hide anything from Jesus. He already sees our hearts and knows what we’re thinking and feeling. But he wants us to be real with him; he wants us to be completely vulnerable with him.
When we give our lives to Jesus, he wants to strip away all those complexities. And he wants us to tell him everything, just like a child would, without pretense. Think about how a child talks to a parent. When a child falls down and skins a knee, that child runs to mom or dad and tells them what happened. They don’t pretend to be okay, they just tell mommy or daddy everything. When kids are upset about something, they usually have no problem letting their parents know about it.
That’s how Jesus wants us to talk to him. He wants us to run to him and cry our hearts out when we ‘skin our knees’ in life. When we’re upset, he wants us to tell him all about it. Jesus doesn’t want us to pretend it’s okay. He doesn’t want us to hold it all inside. What he wants most is for us to talk to him just like a child would to a parent, with openness and complete honesty. And when we start communicating with Jesus on that level, amazing things start happening. He’s able to work in our lives in powerful ways. We build fellowship and He begins to pour out blessings on our lives.
Children Don’t Try to Merit or Earn Things
Another spiritual lesson we can learn from children is that children don’t try to merit or earn things. When was the last time you offered a kid a dollar or a cookie? Pretty likely they didn’t turn it down. Try to give a kid money and they won’t ask if they were good enough to get the money, they’ll just take it. There’s a lesson there.
To enter the kingdom of God, we can’t try to merit or earn anything. We have to be like children, as Jesus said, and simply accept salvation completely. It’s so easy for us as adults to think that we have to be good enough to earn God’s love and salvation. We often think we have to merit the grace and blessings of God. But the truth is, we can’t. We can never merit his favor. We can never earn our salvation. What we must do is become as a child and simply accept what Jesus is offering to us so freely. Grace and salvation are free; we only have to accept them.
Children Have the Ability to Easily Trust
It’s so beautiful to look at the relationship between a child and a loving parent. Children have the ability to easily trust. My uncle used to love tossing my cousin high into the air when she was just a toddler, and while it scared everyone watching, she loved it. She’d laugh and giggle. Why? Because she trusted her father completely to catch her every time. She knew he’d never let her fall.
Children have faith in their parents. They have faith that their parents will take care of them. They have faith that they’re parents will provide food when they need it. They believe that their parents will be there whenever they need them. In the New Living Translation, Mark 10:15 says, “I assure you, anyone who doesn’t have their kind of faith will never get into the Kingdom of God.”
As adults, we so easily become cynical. We’ve been hurt so many times, and we’ve had our trust broken. But Jesus wants us to be childlike with him, to trust him with that complete trust of a child. To have faith that he’ll come through for us every time. To believe that he’ll always be there to catch us, that he’ll take care of us in the hard times, that he’ll provide for us, that he’ll keep us.
So many of the struggles we deal with as Christians come because we don’t trust; we don’t have faith. We bring our burdens to Jesus, and then we pick them back up again. It’s easy to read the many verses of how God will provide and how God will take care of us, but then life gets a bit hard and we start worrying. Is God really going to come through for us? Is he going to meet our needs? And that hurts Jesus so much, just like it would hurt your heart if you knew your child was worrying all the time that you wouldn’t provide for them or wondering if they could trust you.
What Jesus wants from us as Christians is all the faith and trust of a child. Just running to him every time we have a problem and believing that he’s going to take care of us because we’re his children and he loves us.
There are so many spiritual lessons we can learn from children: being genuine, with people and God, not trying to merit salvation, and easily trusting and having faith in Jesus. Becoming childlike is the key to entering the kingdom of God, and while we don’t want to be immature, innocence, trust, and ingenuousness are traits that Jesus wants us to have as Christians.
I recently heard an illustration that sums it up so well. An older preacher was talking about the struggle he had with raising his hands in praise and supplication in church. He struggled with God, feeling that raising his hands up might look silly. Have you ever worried about that? How will it look if you raise your hands in praise? Will people think you look silly in church if you have your hands up in supplication before God?
That preacher struggled with that for some time, until one day he was at his daughter’s home with his daughter and granddaughter. When his little granddaughter’s father came home, she ran to the door, arms up and hands in the air yelling, “Daddy.” And he realized, that’s exactly what God wanted from him. Arms up, hands in the air, saying, “Father.” He said he never struggled with raising his hands to God again. Because God wanted him to come as a child, trusting, innocent, arms reached out in faith.
And without a doubt, when we come to Jesus as children, he will take his in his arms, put his hands upon us, and bless us, just as he did with the little children who came to him in the Bible.