At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Mat. 18:1-4)
We live in a world where we are taught to be the best we can be (to be the greatest). Since we were children, we were taught to study and do homework in order to become the greatest in the class. If we played sports, we were taught to practice, practice, practice, and practice some more in order for our team to become the greatest. When we go to work, we have ambition to excel in the company, to receive the employee of the month parking spot, and to get promotions/raises again with the same goal in mind, to become the greatest. At some point or another, we all whether secretly or openly, desire to have a higher position than those around us.
In today’s text, the disciples have this same ambition, they ask Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” It is here that we, like the disciples, discover that the kingdom of heaven does not operate under the same principles as this earthly kingdom that we live in. Jesus tells his disciples the exact opposite of what they wanted to hear. The disciples were under the impression that because they were chosen by and walked with Jesus, that it was obvious that next to him, they would surely be the greatest. Similar to the disciples most of us are guilty of the same thought process. We think that because we go to church or sit in what we consider to be prominent positions, we too must be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Look at what Jesus’ response is to this line of thinking:
- Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven
- Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Mat. 18:4)
Why children? If you stop and truly think about it, children (prior to them being fully exposed to and influenced by the outside world) possess a level of innocence that we as adults can only dream about regaining. Secondly, children (little children) rarely have hidden agendas. They desire to be nurtured and cared for by those whom have been introduced as their parents. They are totally dependent upon their parents to provide food, clothing, and shelter. Children are not prideful, they have to be bathed, dressed, and even checked in places that make adults very uneasy. This is exactly how our Lord desires us to be. He wants us, his children, to be totally dependent upon him. Not having any agendas besides desiring to be closer to him and nothing/no one else. He wants us to allow him to provide for us, feed us, and check us in those most intimate places that cannot be seen by others. Jesus is saying, unless we become like children, not only will we not be the greatest; we will not even enter in the kingdom of heaven. Ladies and gentlemen it is absolutely necessary that we renew our minds (Rm. 12:2) or as Jesus said, “turn and become…” (Mat. 18:3). The kingdom of heaven is not a competition or some sort of worldly promotion. If we desire to enter in the kingdom and be amongst those who God considers “great,” then let us become like children and seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you (Mat. 6:33).