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."
What do people most easily notice about you?
For me, it's being hairy. I know. Probably not what I would have chosen, but tall, muscular and handsome were all off the table. Hairy is what I got, so you play the hand you were dealt.
These outward features are what people most notice about you, until they get to know you. The longer a person knows you, the less they notice the superficial features of your appearance and the more they view you based on your character.
What character trait are you most known for among your friends and family? Is it your temper? Is it being funny? Is it your passion for your vocation or hobby?
Scripture says that believers will be known by our love. But in today's passage Jesus points out another character trait that is all too often lacking in our lives: humility.
Jesus' emphasis on humility jumped out at me today in a new way as I read this familiar passage. The disciples go to ask Jesus a question, one that reveals they still haven't grasped what the kingdom of heaven is all about. "Who will be first in the kingdom?" they ask. They want to know who will sit at Jesus' right hand, who will be in the inner court. They want to know what they need to do in order to gain a high position when the new world order is put into place.
At first, Jesus bypasses their question altogether. He says, "If you want to make it into the kingdom at all, then you must change and become like children." Then He says, "Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." This statement has major implications for believers and for our future with God in heaven. You would think that it would cause a ripple effect throughout the church and throughout Christian history of men and women of God racing each other to get to the lowest position of servitude.
Certainly there have been Christians throughout history and still today who are shining examples of this. Sadly, I am not one of them. Are you?
How would our lives look different if we took Jesus' words here seriously?
- It would change the way we come to God in prayer. No longer would we approach God with a sense of entitlement or with accusatory tones. Humility would teach us both that we have nothing to offer God and that He owes us nothing. Finally, we would begin approaching Him in prayer not with our own agendas, but with questions and with open hands ready to receive answers and guidance from the only One who has the wisdom to give them.
- The way we view ourselves would change. Many of us look upon ourselves through rose-colored glasses. We give ourselves the benefit of the doubt in any situation, and we often consider ourselves to be better than most, above par, better-than-average. Paul instructs us, in Philippians 2:3, saying "in humility count others more significant than yourselves." True humility leads you think less of yourself. It does not lead to self-loathing or being overly critical of yourself in unhealthy ways for these errors only cause us to think about ourselves more often. True humility isn't merely about esteeming yourself more lowly, it is also about esteeming others more highly.
- Lastly, humility would increase our compassion for the downtrodden and forgotten in the world. In verse five of Matthew 18, Jesus continues by assuring His disciples that when they receive one such child in His name, they receive Him. Humility increases our compassion for the lowly and oppressed by reminding us that we are not so very different from them. We don't deserve better than them. Thus, humility leads us to begin putting others ahead of ourselves, as Jesus Himself did. Truthfully, most days it is difficult for me to put my own family ahead of myself, let alone others. Humility would change that.
Father, cultivate humility in our hearts so that the way we view and treat You, ourselves and others is in line with Your good Word.