Who’s the Greatest? (Matthew 18)

1At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

 5“And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.”

10“See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”

The disciples’ question in verse 1 reveals their true belief: they believe the kingdom of heaven to be a society based on merits, not unlike earth.  Their question isn’t so much, “Who is the greatest,” as if they would want to meet this person, but rather, “What must one do to become the greatest?” Their focus is on doing, on self-performance. Jesus’ response to that question flies against that very notion, and it comes in two parts.

First, Jesus replies that they must “change and become like little children” (v.3), that “whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (v.4).  The NIV Application Commentary describes the “little child” as “the true disciple who has humbly received God’s enabling mercy to enter the kingdom and who is now serving God.” In other words, Jesus is telling the disciples that it’s not performance that God so desires; rather, it’s the trusting relationship of the son or daughter for the Father.

Second, Jesus tells his disciples that “whoever welcomes a little child” welcomes him (v.5).  Literally, this seems obvious, especially at Gracepoint Fellowship Church where we regard children very highly (think Impact and Joyland). But let’s take a closer look. Children were regarded somewhat as time-sucking things back in those days: you put in so much time to them, yet they don’t contribute back to society. Thus, men didn’t deal with children until they’ve reached the “coming of age.”

Who — or what — are the “little children” of our society today? If we begin locally at Berkeley, they could be your friends who are in need. They are the things that take up your time without really giving anything back. It could be as simple as dropping a friend off at the airport or helping your buddy move a few blocks. Sure, now that finals are over, it’s very easy to offer assistance, but what if they needed help during your finals? What if your roommate was sick during finals week… do you take the time to buy medicine and cook up chicken soup, or do you jet off to the library, pretending everything’s ok?

A child drinks powdered milk donated locally to Myanmar Red Cross in Bogalay where 95% of all houses were destroyed and 10,000 people are feared to have died.

Hopefully, that hypothetical situation was a no-brainer. Now, let’s take it to a more global level. Last week, Andy and Michelle talked about the world situation: China, according to yesterday’s count, has now lost 50,000 lives due to the quake; the cyclone has claimed 78,000 deaths in Myanmar with an additional 56,000 missing (many of whom are “little children”). It’s so easy to just see this as nothing more than numbers or statistics. The truth is, each digit represents one life lost (or missing). What can we do to help? For starters, we can donate money to the relief fund — even though many of us are students (myself included) and feel that we personally don’t have enough money, compared to the rest of the world, we’re like kings. Even a few dollars can go a long way over there. In addition, let’s participate in the 30 Hour Famine. Let’s raise awareness, both for ourselves and those around us, to what’s going on in the world at large. Finally, let’s remember that each child, each person, is precious to God, and whoever welcomes a little child in Jesus’ name welcomes him.



2 Responses to “Who’s the Greatest? (Matthew 18)”

  1. 1 andy
    May 23, 2008 at 11:49 am

    I wholeheartedly agree with Abe. Thanks for connecting this passage to some concrete actions and application. I think we move closer to sharing the heart of God when we strive to welcome and love the “little children” God has brought into our lives.

  2. 2 robertkim
    May 27, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    I was just doing DT and I was really hit by my responsibility to the sin of others. God’s heart and love places value on our lives and on our souls. He knows the value of lives and he personally struggles, pains, labors, and searches to return us, the lost, to him. I realized. however, that as a Christian, while it was my duty to try and sync with God’s heart, I wasn’t doing that at all. In fact, to not care about the barriers that exist for others to relate to God is to not care about them at all, which I think falls under the category of the sin of not loving. If I can help my brother remove those barriers to God, I feel that it is my duty as a son of God to help my brothers relate with the father.

    The ability to become that image of a little child comes not as a gift or instantaneous magic, but rather it comes from the trained and practice faculty to love others. The ability to love strangers and to care for the salvation of that person is a Godly attribute, one that we have to foster and to espouse. We have to try to understand and become one with the heart of God so that we could join in the joy of finding those who are lost.

    While all that seems incredibly general, I realized that it’s not all about the random strangers and about people we haven’t reached out to. We can even learn to love in our own fellowship! While it is difficult to share or to show a fellow brother his fault, it is even more painful to see that brother spiral downward into that sin, because sin, when left unchecked, becomes intertwined into our hearts tighter and tighter as time progresses, it literally infects us to the cell.

    Sin is stubborn and it does not want to admit to itself because it is either comfortable or enjoyable to the party. But if we want to build our capacity for love, I think that we should recognize the sins in each others lives. It is more loving to want the best for each other, to remove from each other the barriers that prevent us from fellowshipping with God. I’m not saying put the plank aside and go accusing, but rather if you notice something about a brother that you yourself as a Christian cannot recommend, should you not in fact at least mention it to your brother whom you claim to love and to care?

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