Just Go Play

It was in the context of my begging my kids, probably for the fifteenth time in ten minutes, to say “thank you,” that I thought of Jesus’ warning that “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Luke 18:17). Jesus is telling us to be like children? Really? Doesn’t he know what children are like? Especially my children?

I think, however, that it just may be (in a certain sense) our kids’ obliviousness to say “thank you” that Jesus is suggesting we emulate.

Saying “thank-you” is a particularly adult practice. And, interestingly, the quality of our “thank you” varies depending on the quality of the thing we’ve been given. It’s as if we want our thank you to repay the original kindness. Big kindnesses get big “thank-yous.” This is why we get uncomfortable when we get really good gifts. We know that simple “thank-yous” won’t cover the debt we owe. If someone gives us a truly wonderful gift, or helps us in a really selfless way, we’ll do anything we can to balance the scales again. Being in someone’s debt rankles.

Kids have no such problem. When someone gives them a gift, they unwrap it and begin to play immediately. It’s us parents who chase after them pleading, “Say thank you!” We might as well be saying what our subconscious is screaming: “You’re going to anger the gift-giver!”

Jesus wants us to receive the gift of his love like a child would: running off immediately to enjoy it. After all, doesn’t the gift-giver want to see his gift played with? Wasn’t that the whole point of giving it? The most glorious irony is this: our unfettered and without-thought play turns out to be more law-abiding than our starched-shirt and pleated-pant “thank-yous” ever could be. Our joy in a wonderful present engenders the kind of thanks (that which is from the heart) that the gift-giver was interested in.

Let’s receive God’s gift of Jesus like children. Your enjoyment of the gift of God’s one-way love is a precious kind of “thank you” to him.

(Excerpted from my forthcoming devotional It Is Finished: 365 Days of Good News)


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