Matthew 18:3 And Jesus said: : ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
What did Jesus mean by “become like little children”? Little children means not a babe in arms but not a teenager either. The word little child means an infant maybe aged 5,6,7 or 8. And not a child like today who has been going to school for years! But an infant like in Africa who hasn’t begun any schooling yet, who spends all day just playing!
Become like little children does NOT mean revert to childhood or become childish. You may have seen the T-shirt slogan: “Keep the faith baby, not the baby faith.” So what did Jesus mean? What characteristics of a little child give us a picture of a believer in the Kingdom of heaven?
When they are born, babies and little children do not know how to do wrong. Adults invent new ways of sinning. Children are innocent.
We make life so complicated – it need not be so!
In the car a four-year-old granddaughter asked Granny why she was wearing the brightly colored scarf she had on. “I thought it would make my blue suit look much prettier,” Granny said. To which the granddaughter replied, “It didn’t work, did it?” Children are honest – they say what they think.
The power to wonder
It is wonderful to watch children as they discover the beauties of the world – new animals, sunsets and night skies. To many grown-ups miss out on these exciting wonders.
The power to forgive and forget
Grown-ups keep grudges – children don’t. They can be fighting one minute and best friends the next
A child is expected to be obedient. Parents expect their child to obey immediately without fussing or complaining. Adults have a lot to learn from little children about how to obey God!
Children enjoy the simplest things in life.
Whatever they do, children do it with all their energy!
Children trust their parents to meet their needs. Children cannot provide their own food, clothing and shelter. So they rely on their parents for these things. Children Haven’t Lost Their Ability to Trust. Do you remember as a child leaping into your father’s arms and knowing that he wouldn’t drop you? Allowing someone to grab your arms and swing you around knowing they wouldn’t let go. Never once did you think, “I wonder what would happen if dad let me fall, or if he let go when he was spinning me and I went flying into a wall?”
Children are curious and they like to take risks. They have lots of courage. They venture out into a world that is immense and dangerous and trust their parents to take care of them.
Do we trust our Heavenly Father as much as children trust their earthly father, or for that matter as much as children trust their Heavenly Father. Remember what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount about depending on God to meet all our material needs. Consider the birds of the air and the lilies of the fields.
Matthew 6 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
You know the story of the man who fell over a cliff and just happened to catch hold of a branch that was growing out from the face of the cliff. Holding on as tight as he could he hollered; “Hello is anyone up there?” After a few moments a voice came from above saying “This is God, do you trust me?” and the man said “Thank you God of course I trust you.” And the voice came back “Do you really trust me” “Oh yes God you know that I really trust you.” The voice answered again and said “Let go of the branch” there was a pause and the man yelled “Is there anyone else up there?”
Innocence simplicity Frankness the power to wonder the power to forgive and forget Obedience Enjoyment Enthusiasm Trust
All these are true of little children. But Jesus has one more vital aspect of childhood in mind here.
3 And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Whoever humbles himself. The most important aspect of childhood Jesus is pointing to here is humility. And humility has two aspects
HUMILITY the opposite of greatness
Matthew 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
Jesus uses the child as a visual aid to true greatness. The disciples had wrong ideas. They thought that power and authority would be the things that mattered most in God’s kingdom. They want a special status. They feel that they are better than others.
Children are entirely the opposite. A little child knows his place! If they are the youngest of six or seven children, as this child in Jesus’s time might well have been, they know their place! At the bottom! A child does not think that he is the important one in the family. A child knows he has to grow up!! A child does not wish to push himself forward. He does not wish for prominence.
There is an old saying: ‘Second place is okay if you don’t mind being first in a long line of losers.’ Nobody wants to be in 2nd place. We all want to be in first place. We all want to be the winner, no matter what it is we have won at. But that is not the attitude of the little child! It is only as the child grows up and gets involved in a competitive world that his instinctive humility is left behind. The follower of Christ must learn to humble himself before the Lord so that God can lift him up (James 4:10).
The disciples asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Mark and Luke’s Gospels indicate that they had been arguing about this question. In Matthew 18, the disciples are fussing over who was the most important one of them. In chapter 19 they are still at it, and in chapter 20 James and John and their mother are working on Jesus to try to get them the most prominent seats by the throne. What was the reaction of the other disciples? They all began to argue about it. “Jesus can’t possibly give those seats to James and John! That’s where we ought to be seated!” Jesus was certainly patient with His friends!
The biblical change that Jesus is after in his disciples is humility. If they really wanted to be great in His eyes, in His kingdom, then they were going to have to humble themselves. It wasn’t about who was the smartest, or who was the strongest, or who was the best orator and so forth. In Jesus’ mind, it was about who was most willing to serve.
Later on in Matthew 20 we find James and John wanting a special place in the Kingdom of God.
25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
The world thinks that those who are capable and intelligent will be honoured. But Jesus tells them that just the opposite is true. Those who will be greatest in the kingdom of heaven won’t be the people who are so full of themselves. They won’t be the people who feel that they are good, that they are better than others. They will be those who humble themselves!
Before we look down on the disciples and judge them, we need to look at our own hearts. The disciples were so busy pushing for power and position in the kingdom of God. Are we ever pushy like that? In our day jobs? In our hobbies and recreations and social circles. Even in church. Do we ever push our way to the top?
The greatest in the Kingdom of God will be like children – Jesus says, “…whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 18:4)
Then there is a second side to the humility of a child:
HUMILITY in being dependant
The disciples look at themselves and they want to feel great. When a child looks at himself, he knows he needs help. Dependence is natural to a child, he never thinks that he can face life by himself. He is perfectly content to depend on those who love him and care for him. If only men and women would turn to God and place their dependence on Him, they will find a world of peace and strength, a world of joy.
The King James Bible hear says “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” The disciples were going to have to be converted, that is, they were going to have to have a change of mind and a change of heart, recognize how completely bankrupt they were, how completely dependent they were upon Jesus for their power and ability and everything else if they were going to be of any use to Jesus.
Jesus makes this point in so many places.
John 154 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
Becoming like a little child is about acknowledging that without Jesus we can do nothing. We cannot achieve anything at all for the Kingdom of God. Especially that we cannot do anything to save ourselves from our sin. Adults think about what we can achieve – children know they cannot achieve anything and so depend upon their parent for everything!
Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no-one can boast.
A child is totally dependent upon their parent. This is humility – the humble acknowledgement of God’s role, in our life and in our world today. Accepting that we are not ultimately in control – acknowledging that we need God. Humility is not telling yourselves you’re nobody, small and weak. Humility is saying that you are in need of God all the time. He is the Lord of your life, and therefore you’re going to worship Him often and glorify Him at all times.
So to become like little children we need to stop chasing after the greatness that comes from human achievements and ACKNOWLEDGE OUR DEPENDENCE ON GOD for everything. Humilty in dependence.
“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
BECOME LIKE LITTLE CHILDREN
The power to wonder
The power to forgive and forget
HUMILITY the OPPOSITE OF GREATNESS
HUMILITY in BEING DEPENDANT
A PRAYER OF RELINQUISHMENT
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, hear me.
Deliver me, Jesus,
from the desire of being loved,
from the desire of being extolled
from the desire of being honoured
from the desire of being praised
from the desire of being preferred to others,
from the desire of being consulted,
from the desire of being approved,
from the fear of being humiliated,
from the fear of being despised,
from the fear of suffering rebuke,
from the fear of being forgotten,
from the fear of being ridiculed,
from the fear of being wronged,
from the fear of being suspected.
And, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire
that others might be loved more than I,
that others may be esteemed more than I,
that in the opinion of the world
others may increase and I may decrease,
that others may be chosen, and I set aside,
that others may be praised and I unnoticed,
that others may be preferred to me in everything,
that others may become holier than I,
provided that I become as holy as I should.