Like Little Children
By Pastor Krista Ducker
18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
2 Then he called a little child over to sit among the disciples, 3 and said, “I assure you that if you don’t turn your lives around and become like this little child, you will definitely not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Those who humble themselves like this little child will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
Falling into sin
6 “As for whoever causes these little ones who believe in me to trip and fall into sin, it would be better for them to have a huge stone hung around their necks and be drowned in the bottom of the lake.
In this passage, Jesus responds to a question from the disciples that constitutes what we’d call a “teachable moment”; they ask him who will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And in his response to them, Jesus re-defines what greatness looks like, by comparing the “greatest” in the kingdom to the very least in the human order of things in the ancient near east: children. He says to his disciples; “I assure you that if you don’t turn your lives around and become like this little child, you will definitely not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus then goes on to say that there are three ways that children teach us about what it means to be great in God’s kingdom:
Children are humble; therefore, we are called to humility (verse 4); 4 Those who humble themselves like this little child will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Note: children are not only mentioned here because they are dependent and innocent. In Ancient Near Eastern society, children had no power or influence, and their lives were very precarious, especially if they did not have the protection of parents (that is, orphans). They were excluded from adult male society, that is the sphere of power in that world, at least until they reached the age of maturity, which would have been around 13 years old. So if we are to be a part of God’s kingdom, we will relinquish control to God and operate out of a spirit of humility.
Second, We are called to hospitality (verse 5); “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” Jesus says to us that anytime we welcome and show care to those who are weaker members of society, it is as if we are welcoming Christ; this word hospitality is not about impressing our friends or having the fanciest, most lavish house parties in town--it is about an attitude of the heart that is open, that treats everyone with dignity and holds space for them with generosity of spirit and patience.
Third, We are called to be good examples of faith (verse 6); A stern warning, but a reminder--the way we behave toward each other matters. How might we be causing each other to stumble? Especially now in our highly charged times? Sometimes I think of the command that we not use the Lord’s name in vain in this way. If I use the same mouth to praise God and curse my neighbor, am I not tarnishing God’s name? Who would want to know God after seeing me behave like that?
How we behave toward those who are weaker, or sick among us--or those who share different views--matters. We need to operate out of a place of humility and hospitality, with welcome and generous hearts, so that we do not lead others into places they shouldn’t go.
This evening on our first Manna in the Middle service in a year and a half, we have had the tremendous joy of confirming one of our young people into the church and into a growing faith in God. Ayden, we celebrate this with your family and your confirmation friends, and we welcome you into this church family.
And in a little while we will be welcoming students of all ages as we bless their backpacks and award bibles to our children. Let us look at these moments not only as opportunities to bless them, but to be reminded of God’s call to us to be people of humble hospitality; that we would allow God to shape us into strong role models of faith for these young people, and for all who look to us for guidance, in Jesus’ name.