Lord, keep me in a state of childlike humility.
Read MATTHEW 18:1–9
The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven
18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
Causing to Stumble
6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! 8 If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Consider the children in your family or faith community. What can their lives teach about kingdom qualities?
Much in today’s passage challenges our current church structure and practice. Churches and denominations give power to people with charisma, high levels of education, preaching skills, wealth, status or family connections. The kingdom of heaven knows none of this. Greatness in Jesus’ eyes lies in becoming like a little child. The lowly, insignificant one who is humble and dependent on God is truly great in God’s eyes. This calls for certain qualities in Christian leaders.
Kingdom qualities which honor the Lord and protect the weak are often lacking today. Jesus said that if anyone causes even one little one who believes in him to stumble, it would be better if that person were drowned in the sea. In the past, the general public has trusted the church and its leaders to care for children, who are weak and quite vulnerable. That is no longer true—ministerial trust has been betrayed by more than a few clergy who have used their position to take advantage of “little ones” (6). What an outrage that secular governments must legislate for the protection of the weak, even in church-run organizations! These days we actually have to certify that churches and Christian institutions are safe places.
We must see to it that our attitudes, values and behavior—and what is considered acceptable in our communities of faith—do nothing to cause the downfall of his “little ones.” Sin not repented of is a deadly serious matter, punishable by eternal fire. Godly wisdom, love, humility and courage are imperative for the people of God. We are called to deal with individual and corporate sin in our midst, beginning with ourselves and extending to those who change direction and repent. The work of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross has made forgiveness and restoration possible for all of humanity.
Pray for yourself and for those who have leadership responsibilities among believers—for humility of soul, a servant heart, integrity of action and loving welcome for Christ’s “little ones.”
Lord, teach us that we are to shine as a light to the world rather than sink into a reproach.