Matthew 18:1-14; Little Ones

Jesus has a question from his disciples: how can we achieve status in the kingdom of God? We need to be careful to not read into this Mark’s description of the disciples discussing who is greater than whom. Matthew presents this as an honest question.

Jesus’ answer starts with putting a youngster in front of the disciples. He tells them that the entry requirements to the kingdom include becoming like a child.

I’ve heard lots of explanations through the years about what this might mean, but I’ve come to believe that it is all about status. Children in the time of Jesus did not enjoy the exalted status that children have today. They were low on the totem pole.

Jesus is saying that one must take on a low status to come into the kingdom. Not just an attitude of humility but an actual status and behavior. This is not low self-esteem. It is true humility. I am no better than anyone else.

Paradoxically, once one meets the entrance requirement and enters the kingdom, he finds that he has been given the status of “greatest”, which is what the disciples were asking about. If you think about that for awhile, you can see that everyone in the kingdom will be the same status as everyone else: truly humble, no better than others, and also the greatest.

There are no levels in the kingdom of God. We are all little ones.

As we are received as little ones, so we must receive one another. There are implications for the church here.

  • Everyone should be treated in the same manner. People who are leaders and who contribute more heavily to the budget are not to be seen as better or greater than someone of lowly station in life with little money and no leadership skills.
  • If one of these people does not feel welcome at our church, it would be better for us to be drowned in the ocean. Really!
  • Causing one of these people to be led away from Jesus is the worst possible thing we could do. We should go to any lengths to avoid causing them to sin.
  • When a lowly person comes to our church, we have an immediate and forever obligation to that person. We cannot just shrug our shoulders when they slip out the back door. They are not there just to pad our statistics.
  • If one of the sheep is lost, the other 99 become temporarily less important and all effort must be made for the one. This is not just a familiar parable. It’s the way God the Father works and it is how he expects us to work.

In an era where church growth trumps all, we are used to thinking like a business. If we lose a customer because of what we are doing, but gain two or three, we are ahead of the game. God does not see it that way. We need to reorient.

There are no levels in the kingdom of God. We are all little ones.

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