At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
He called a little child to him and had him stand among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus chose just 12 men to become his disciples. At some point, this might have caused them to feel that they were extra special. Perhaps competition entered their relationships with one another as they vied for even more special favor with Jesus. In fact, Luke sheds some light on their attitudes.
Luke 9:46 states, “An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest.” According to Luke, Jesus knew what they were thinking. He could see into their hearts. So, the disciples asked him, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Perhaps this question revealed selfish considerations on the part of these 12 ordinary men. Perhaps they were more concerned about their own eternal status than that of other ordinary people for whom Jesus also cared. Whatever their motivation, Jesus, as usual, rocked their little world with his answer.
He called a little child to him and had him stand among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” What was Jesus teaching with his words about little children? Jesus was teaching that for a person to be saved requires humility. Children tend to be humble in their very nature. They tend to be trusting and unpretentious. They believe what you tell them.
Someone once said, “All God desires from the world is to be believed.” Entrance into the kingdom of God requires humble, childlike faith.
Although faith is not mentioned in Matthew 18:1–5, we know that it isn’t just humility that ushers a person into heaven; it is faith in the Son of God. A humble, unpretentious faith could rightly be called a “childlike faith.” When Jesus wanted to bless the children, He said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:14–15). How does a child receive a gift? With openness, honesty and unbridled joy. That type of happy authenticity should be a hallmark of our faith as we receive God’s gift in Christ.*
Do you have humble, childlike faith? If not, what is preventing you from humbling yourself before God, admitting that you need Him, and placing your unwavering trust in Jesus?
*“Does the Bible instruct us to have childlike faith?” Got Questions Ministries, accessed August 25, 2022 [https://www.gotquestions.org/childlike-faith.html]