Session #114 I Kid You Not
Scripture Matthew 18:1-5
Summary Matthew 18:1-5 provides the key to right relationships in the kingdom community. It also lays the foundation and sets the tone for the next teachings. Can relationship challenges in the Body of Christ be resolved? Removed? Is this even possible? Yes. Seriously. I kid you not.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. Matthew 18:1–5
This passage teaches a kingdom truth which when applied in our lives, all our relationship issues in the Body of Christ will be resolved. If we can focus, learn and practise these rightly, the church would be a more pleasant experience. Matthew 18:1-5 reveals a foundational key and it is found in one word: Humility.
The Question of Greatness
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Matthew 18:1
Matthew had used “At that time” twice in the book, immediately after Jesus’ suffering and death prediction.
“Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”, not an innocent question but one that was disputed amongst the disciples (Mark 9:33 and Luke 9:46). Their view of the kingdom was probably influenced by carnal, and political thinking. They may be thinking of succession planning and wondered amongst themselves who is the greatest. Jesus had praised Peter in Matthew 16:17-19 and brought only Peter, James and John to a high mountain (Matthew 17:1). So, they wanted to know, who gets the high position? Who is the best, the greatest?
Is there anything wrong with aspiring to kingdom greatness? In Matthew 11:11, John the Baptist was considered great in the kingdom as he had been a prophet, bridging the Old Testament and New Testament.
Like John, we have a special place in God’s kingdom timeline. We too are in a privileged position as we get to proclaim the coming of the Lord. We live in a generation that may see the coming of the Lord. We get to move in the spirit and power of Elijah, of the forerunner, to prepare the way, to make a people ready for the Lord’s coming; and to participate through kingdom assignments. Everyone is invited to kingdom greatness.
Jesus said it is even possible to be greater than John. This sounds good to the disciples. Everyone is invited to kingdom greatness, even the one who is the very least. But why be satisfied with being the least when you can be the greatest? Notice the ways of the man versus the ways of the kingdom?
There is nothing wrong with aspiring to kingdom greatness. It just has to be done and achieved in the ways of the kingdom; not the world’s. Jesus had to explain what “the least” means, with an object lesson – “a little child”.
Kingdom Way to Kingdom Greatness (Highness)
Little child in Greek is paidion meaning baby, very young child, toddler, kid. In Jesus’ days, there was a high mortality rate. Hence, there is less attachment to children. It is very different from today’s obsession and tendency to fuss over children. They were powerless, weak, having no status or low status. They were totally dependent and reliant on their parents and others.
Jesus used this picture of “a little child” to make His point about kingdom greatness. The characters were to be humble, lowly and simple; not about status or position. This is the basis of all kingdom relationships and character. Jesus was not referring to childish behaviour, spoiled, selfish, self-absorbed, rude.
Three Key Points from Three Verses
Entering the Kingdom: become low; a humbling of self; a bringing low of self (Matthew 18:3)
All our lives, we are told to aim high, to be ambitious, to be the masters of our own destiny, to take charge, to be in control, to get our way, to step on others on the way up. However, Jesus turns it upside down. The only way to enter the kingdom of God is to “convert” and “become” as/like little children.
“Convert” (strepho) means turn; sounds like repentance, “become” (ginomai) means change. The root word of geneseos (genealogy/genesis) is to form, to begin, to come into existence. From ‘ginomai’, we get ‘genos’ (generation or offspring) as seen in John 3:3,5.
Like a baby, a little child who is lowly, needy and helpless, humility is required to be born again, to become like a little child, to enter the kingdom. The need to be made low, to become low in humility as we realise that we cannot get in by our own merits or righteousness. We need to be saved, to believe, by faith, by grace. There is a total reliance and dependence on God to save. We cannot save ourselves. We need Jesus.
To enter the kingdom, to be seated in high places with the king, we have to become low. This goes against everything the world stands for. Hence, a need for repentance and regeneration by the Spirit of the King (Titus 3:4-5).
This is not the end but only the beginning. The problem is that many come in low but want to get up high, too fast and too soon. We forget that entering the kingdom, like salvation, is not just a point but a process.
If we came in with humility, then we must continue with humility. Until we eventually enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 18:3).
Excelling in the Kingdom: Remain Low; to always humble self (Matthew 18:4)
Humility is a defining trait of kingdom people. The way up is down, to achieve highness in the kingdom, one has to remain lowly in heart and mind. Kingdom Lowness (Humility) leads to kingdom greatness which is read in James 4:6, 10; Proverbs 3:34; and 1 Peter 5:6.
Humility, lowliness of heart and mind is not new thought at all. In Micah 6:8 and Numbers 12:3, they teach us that we are to walk humbly with God as Moses did. Early Judaism emphasized humility in all dealings and relationships. Humility to be expressed toward those in power and positions. Conversely, those in power and position were to guard against arrogance and pride.
In Rabbinic hyperbole examples, those who did not serve food to scholars, teachers, or leaders warrant death. Students presumptuously making legal decisions in front of teachers without consultation are to be struck dead. However, this can lead and has led many to the manipulation of followers and subjects in the name of humble and blind submission to leaders. Jesus spoke out against religious leaders’ pride and hypocrisy (Matthew 23:12).
Existing and Excelling in the Kingdom: Greatness
In relating to one another as God’s kingdom people, be humble as read in Philippians 2:3 and Colossians 3:12.
In leading others, be humble as Jesus taught that the first shall be the last and servant of all in Mark 9:5. When we relate to leaders and elders, be humble as Peter calls for submission to the elders and to humble oneself before God in 1 Peter 5:5-6.
When serving the Lord in ministries and assignments, be humble (Acts 20:19). In relating to all men, be humble (Titus 3:2). In dealing with opposition, be humble (2 Timothy 2:25).
We are to guard against false humility (religiosity or form of godliness) as warned in Colossians 2:18, 23.
How Low should you go depends on how High do you want to go? Learning from Jesus, we are to have His attitude and mindset as recorded in Philippians 2:5-6, where He humbled Himself to the cross. Jesus was then exalted to the highest of the highest (Philippians 2:9-11).
Embracing Others in the Kingdom with the same attitude (Matthew 18:5)
Receiving Christ is more than just the point of salvation. We are to receive Jesus as one would receive “little children”. Receiving one another with the same attitude and humility of lowliness not pride (Romans 12:16).
Receiving and associating with the lowly, needy, fringe as Jesus had welcomed all when He was with His disciples. Jesus also taught that with kindness extended to one who is in need is an act of kindness extended to Him in Matthew 25:35-36, 40. Our tendency to want to be associated with the high-flyers.
Look out for the weak, lowly and poor, who are these in our churches or ministries or communities? Do not automatically shun those we cannot get along with.
When we are low and remain low, we cannot look down but only look up.
How would you respond? As little children? How do you fare in this kingdom trait? “How humble am I?”
There is nothing wrong with aspiring to kingdom greatness. We need to achieve it in kingdom ways. Every relationship issue within the Body of Christ can be resolved and removed if we all exhibited this kingdom trait of Humility. The humility that allows us to enter the kingdom, that enables us to excel in the kingdom (greatness); and that enables us to embrace others as the way Jesus would.