Giving Thanks at the Children’s Table
Like many families, when a large group was dining together during holidays or family reunions, we had a ‘children’s table.’ Sometimes it was the table in the kitchen, sometimes it was a card table set up in the family room; occasionally, if the home or facility was large, it was a table set up in the same room as the ‘adult’ table. After a certain age, it was definitely a put-down to be assigned to the ‘children’s table.’
This likely isn’t a modern concept. In fact, it is possibly as old a communal dining. And is it probable that being relegated to the lesser ‘children’s table’ was as disdainful in ancient times as it is today. Most adults today, if we were honest, would be somewhat offended if we went to dinner at someone’s home and were given a seat at the children’s table. And most certainly we would be even more offended if we were given no seat at all and fed only scraps, leftovers--or even worse--the food that fell on the floor. No one would expect to be treated that way, and no one would blame a guest for feeling offended if they were assigned inferior seating and garbage food fit only for the domestic pets. And yet, this is exactly what Jesus did, figuratively, in Mark 7.
In this passage, the woman is an unqualified outsider, so unqualified that Jesus repeatedly ignores her. She is not of the right ‘family’ or select group of people and He finally tells her so in rather impolite verbiage; in today’s terms, this exchange would be considered rude, racist, possibly misogynistic. It is not at all the same response Jesus gave the Roman centurion. Yet this savvy, persistent mother shows absolutely no sign of offense. None at all! In fact, when Jesus equates her with a dog—not even one of the children, much less an adults, but a dog!!—she doesn’t bat an eye and actually agrees with Him in a most extraordinary statement: “That's true, Lord, but even the dogs under the table are allowed to eat the scraps from the children's plates.”1
This woman--who was not educated, had not been to seminary, was not of a priestly family or even an Israelite--understood what many religious scholars of her day (and many Christians today) did not understand: healing is but a ‘crumb’ of the Bread of Life2 and available to all who will but persevere, even the “unqualified”. This unsaved woman recognized Jesus as a bearer of the powerful, curse-breaking anointing that would save her daughter and she pestered Him until He released the Word she wanted. No wonder Jesus marveled at her faith!
If unqualified outsiders get what they desire simply by persistent faith, how much more do the mature children3 get! Those who have received Jesus get the Bread--generous plates of the best in the Master’s house!4 We get more than scraps and crumbs! As sons and daughters, we are eligible for the full-meal-deal, fiesta, Thanksgiving-every-day benefit plan. In fact, Jesus said the all that the Father has is the sons’, and the Father has everything.5 Yet so many of the children are immature and lack the understanding of the woman; we beg and plead for mere crumbs, completely unaware that we have been granted so much more—in fact, whatever we ask.6 Or we get offended at the gospel of grace that gives us the privileges of sonship; we childishly allow religious spirits to cause us to covet, compare, criticize, condemn or complain about our situation or another’s blessings.
It’s time for the children to grow up and take their proper place at the family table that has been prepared for them.7 It’s time for the sons and daughters to understand who their Father is, and who He has made His children to be. It is time for the children to recognize their role as fellow workers with the Father,8 stewards and distributors of the Father’s blessings. 9 Remember, the ‘crumbs’ belonged to the children, those crumbs are excess or overflow, to do with as the children choose.
As we give thanks now and moving forward, let’s learn to look past possible offenses, keep our eyes on the One who broke the curse and gave us His reward, and embrace the unity of the ‘children’s table’. Let’s take our seat at the table and start taking advantage of the privileges of being part of the Kingdom family. And while we’re at it, let’s learn to graciously and generously share the many benefits (crumbs) with as many unqualified people as possible.
1. Mark 7:28 NLT
2. John 6:35, 48, 51
3. John 1:12; Galatians 3:26; 1 John 3:1
4. Luke 15:22-23
5. Luke 15:31
6. Ephesians 3:20; Matthew 18:19, Matthew 21:22; Mark 11:24; John 14:13, John 15:7
7. Psalm 23:5
8. 1 Corinthians 3:9, 2 Corinthians 6:1
9. Matthew 10:8