“Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matthew 18:1).
Can you imagine the shock on the disciples faces when Jesus told them that “whoever humbles himself like this child—this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4)?
I imagine the disciples were expecting Jesus to point out someone like Moses, or Elijah (after all, this occurred shortly after the transfiguration). Perhaps some of the disciples were secretly vying for the position of “greatest” themselves.
Either way, I feel confident that Jesus caught their attention when He called over a child and proclaimed him or her as greatest in the Kingdom.
There are plenty of lessons to draw from that statement. However, Christ’s next two statements are the ones that have been resonating with me lately:
“But whoever causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe in Me—it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea!” (v. 6).
Allow me to paraphrase: A terrible, sufferable death would be better than causing a child to walk in sin.
Before your mind floods with images of child predators, abusive fathers, or overbearing mothers, consider that this warning is for you! That’s right, you and me –Christian parents.
I know what you are thinking; “I’d never lead my child into sin…” I thought the same thing at first. Then, I asked myself:
- What about the example I set when I grumble at the vehicle that cut me off in traffic yesterday?
- What am I teaching when my son overhears me gossiping with my friends around the dinner table after church?
- What about the times I have made fun of my friend’s weaknesses within hearing distance of my son?
I don’t know about you, but a careful examination of my example to my son causes me to wonder, “Am I betraying Matthew 18:6 by the way I parent?”
I would much rather be known as one who exemplifies verse 5: “And whoever welcomes one child like this in My name welcomes Me.”
So, the next time a car cuts me off in traffic, I’m going to make an effort to exemplify Christ-like patience. And next time I have an opportunity to indulge in gossip, I’m going to turn the subject to something positive. And the next time I am tempted to tear down someone with my words, I will choose to build them up instead.
Not only are all of these Christ-like actions, but they are also Christ-like examples for my child.
I doubt anyone would call me “greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” But, by considering the example I set before my son, hopefully I will humble myself like a child and in so doing; welcome my child into the Kingdom.