Humility is the quality of child-like faith that God requires.
Matthew 18:3 – “Truly I tell you,” he said, “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Here in the account of Matthew, the disciples had posed the question to Yeshua, asking who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. However, in Luke and Mark’s accounts, the question arose due to the fact that the disciples had been arguing about who among them was the greatest. Regardless if these were the same or different occasions, the root lesson that Yeshua provides is the same: one must become like a child.
In what way should a believer mimic children? Depending on the age of child being discussed, children can be mean or they can be self-centered and stubborn. Clearly these are not characteristics of being the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
The only clue we have from the text suggests this was a small child who was at least able to stand, as Yeshua had the child stand among them. When children are very young, they are in a constant state of learning; learning how to behave, how to interact with others, and how to do basic skills that they will need for the rest of their lives. No one looks to a young child to be an expert in anything because they just haven’t had the time and practice necessary to become skilled at anything. It is this aspect that Yeshua hones in on, the idea is that the greatest in the kingdom of heaven is the one who is in a constant state of learning.
This actually hearkens back to Yeshua’s discussion with Nicodemus in which he says in order to see the kingdom of God, one must be born again. The passage there in the third chapter of John clarifies that Yeshua was not talking about being physically re-born, as if that were possible. And the emphasis here is the same: if being born means to come into a new environment with a new set of eyes, then becoming a child means seeking how to operate within a new environment of living. Yeshua was highlighting how the disciples would need to be giving up pre-conceived ideas to experience the fresh things that God was about to do. The kingdom was not about greatness among men, it was about humility in God’s eyes.
The emphasis Yeshua makes in both cases is a sense of humility that is required to be a faithful disciple. Yeshua is not suggesting believers should be immature and self-centered as many children can be, but they should be innocent to evil and willing to learn new things in new ways that God wants to convey. There is an element of repenting, as Yeshua says one must “turn” to become like a little child. Therefore, our growth within the kingdom should never be a source of pride or lifting oneself up above others, but an opportunity to reach out to others in love so they can be helped along the way, as well.
If we can learn to remain humble and of service to others while we travel the path of the kingdom in this world, then God has the opportunity to lift us up and use us as he sees fit for his purpose.
Matthew 18:4 – “Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child – this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
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