The Kingdom Life
Are you where you need to be in the Lord? Have you reached your fullest potential in Christ? We obviously know the answer to that. Some of us have become too content with where we are, but we must have a genuine desire to move forward in our growth in Christ.
Matthew 18:1–14 is an admonition by Christ on true greatness. The disciples waited breathlessly for Jesus to name the greatest man among them, but He bypassed them completely and called a little child into their midst. True greatness means knowing yourself, accepting yourself, and being yourself—your best self—to the glory of God. It means avoiding two extremes: thinking less of yourself than you ought to, or thinking more of yourself than you ought to. The truly great person does not deny the gifts God has given him, but uses them to the glory of God. There are four principles of greatness in this passage:
The Principle of Humility (vs.2–6). Jesus solemnly declares that the disciples must turn away from their preoccupation with status and must humble themselves like children. Without recognition of one’s fundamental inability to save oneself and without a subsequent complete reliance on God’s mercy, no one can enter the Kingdom of heaven. Those who most clearly perceive their helplessness and who respond accordingly are the greatest in the Kingdom. The disciples’ concern was, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom?” Yet Jesus replied, “Unless you change, . . . you will never enter the Kingdom.” Is our confidence in our standing within the Kingdom that of a child trusting the goodness of our Father, or is our confidence in ourselves?
The Principle of Receptivity (vs.5, 10). It seems that Jesus is, in these verses, blending two concepts: the human child as an example of humility, and the child of God no matter what his age might be. As Christians, we must not only accept the little children for Jesus’ s sake, but we must also receive all of God’s children and seek to minister to them. When we welcome a child (or a Christian believer), we welcome Christ (Matthew 18:5). True disciples must not merely humble themselves; they must welcome all others who humble themselves as believers. The welcome is in Christ’s name.
The Principle of Responsibility (vs.6–9). Since the Fall, all people inherit a sinful nature, making sin inevitable in our lives, but all people freely choose to go along with that nature. God in Christ offers a way out of this otherwise hopeless situation, so that those who deny Jesus have only themselves to blame. In an age when divisions and conflict too often characterize Christian relationships, these verses offer a sober reminder that people whose lives display a lack of love for other Christians may well not be Jesus’s disciples at all. Conversely, oppressed and marginalized Christians should find great encouragement here. Faithful dependence on God, regardless of how others treat them, makes a person great in God’s eyes.
The Principle of Concern (vs. 12–14). However you interpret this passage, it is a call for concern, either to backslidden believers or lost people. At the spiritual level, of course, God is able to search for the wanderer even while still protecting those who have not strayed. The theme of greater joy over the recaptured stray may seem incongruous, but only to those whose hearts are hardened like that of the prodigal’s older brother (Luke 15:25–32). The reality of human existence is that greater joy often does follow the recovery of those who had previously caused greater distress.
A church that does not seek the lost and rejoice over the found is failing in God’s wish. A believer who does not do both is failing in God’s plan. Let us strive to exemplify Kingdom living in humility, with a spirit of receptivity, responsibility, and concern. Does your life exhibit these principles? Are you committed to worshipping God in these ways?