“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3
The question of greatness was something of a pre-occupation for the disciples. They were known to argue amongst themselves which of them would be the greatest, but Matthew tells of one instance where they asked Jesus directly, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matthew 18:1). In response, Jesus had a child stand in their midst and adds to the opening verse, saying, “Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (18:4).
This answer would have shocked the disciples. In Jesus’s day, children were treated as non-entities, but the answer Jesus gave places value on children. The saying, “Children should be seen and not heard,” was an unfortunate reality of how they were treated in Jewish society. In today’s world, society impresses upon us that we are supposed to outgrow childlikeness, leaving vulnerability and playfulness behind, but Jesus says that unless we change and deliberately grow into childlikeness, we will not be great in the kingdom of heaven.
Greatness in the world is marked by independence, confidence and strength, but in the kingdom of God, it is marked by humility and dependence. Children wake up each morning without any means of providing food on their table, clothes in their closet and a roof over their heads, but it never enters their minds to doubt the ability of their parents to provide these things for the simple reason a child trusts. The humility of a child is what expresses dependence, and this is the same disposition of heart God calls us to adopt. We are to move from an attitude of dependence upon ourselves to dependence on God.
The chief characteristic of the Christian life should be humility. We can never be too simple for God, but we can be too clever. We can never be too poor or too weak for God, but we can be too strong and self-assured. We are not to boast of our wisdom, riches, strength or self-sufficiency, but as Jeremiah writes, “let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD” (Jeremiah 9:24).
Jesus says, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). It is by having the trust of a child, depending on our Heavenly Father to be the source of all we need that we are equipped to live godly lives. Greatness in the kingdom is never found by looking for it or by achieving worldly measures of greatness but by seeking to walk humbly with God in childlike dependence on Him.
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, forgive me for when I tried to be self-sufficient rather than trusting You. Thank You for being all the resource I need to live a godly life.