Matthew – God’s Purposes
A little boy was in his backyard playing baseball with only a bat and a ball. He was up to bat. He was all alone but he could hear the crowd yelling, “hit a homer”, in his mind. He shouted back at the crowd, “I’m the greatest batter in the world!”
He threw the ball up in the air, then swung his bat as hard as he could. Missed. He shouted, “Strike One!” Confidently he shouted once more, “I’m the greatest batter in the world!” He threw the ball in the air and swung his bat with all his might. Missed, again. “Strike Two!”, he shouted. He dug his feet into the ground and did some practice swings like the big league ball players do then he picked up the ball once more and shouted, “I am the greatest batter in the world!” It was another swing and a miss. “Strike three!”, he shouted. Undaunted, without missing a beat, the boy then yelled so all “the crowd” could hear, “I’m the greatest PITCHER in the world!”
We are born with this natural desire to be great. What gets us in trouble is desiring to be the greatEST, to be greatER than anyone else God created. But that is not how Kingdom living works. Whatever gifts or talents God has given us, we use to the glory of God, not to our glory. Jesus points that out to his followers in a great lesson of how to be great and who accomplishes greatness in His eyes. Listen in. Let’s put ourselves in this scene.
Matthew 18, NLT
The Greatest in the Kingdom
About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”
2 Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. 3 Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. 4 So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
5 “And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me. 6 But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.
7 “What sorrow awaits the world, because it tempts people to sin. Temptations are inevitable, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting. 8 So if your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand or one foot than to be thrown into eternal fire with both of your hands and feet. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
10 “Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father.
WHAT DO WE LEARN?
1. Become humble like a child without being childish.
2. Be like a little child who has complete faith that they will be loved, cared for and protected.
3. God looks on our humility as a sign of greatness to Him.
4. Obey in faith, like a child who loves completely and wants to please.
5. True humility is not thinking merely less of oneself; it is simply not thinking of oneself at all. A child follows without thought of where they are going.
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. This child was the example of true greatness. True humility means knowing yourself, accepting yourself, and being yourself—your best self—to the glory of God.
Humility means avoiding two extremes: thinking less of yourself than you ought to (as did Moses when God called him, Ex. 3: 11), or thinking more of yourself than you ought to (Rom. 12:3). The truly humble person does not deny the gifts God has given him, but uses them to the glory of God.
An unspoiled child has the characteristics that make for humility: trust (Matt. 18:6), dependence, the desire to make others happy, an absence of boasting or selfish desire to be greater than others. By nature, all of us are rebels who want to be celebrities instead of servants. It takes a great deal of teaching for us to learn the lessons of humility.
BE LOVING AND GENTLE
It is a dangerous thing to look down on the children, because God values them highly. When we welcome a child (or a Christian believer), we welcome Christ (Matt. 18:5). The Father cares for them and the angels watch over them (Matt. 18:10). Like the good shepherd, God seeks the lost and saves them, and we must not cause them to perish. If the shepherd goes after an adult sheep, how much more important is it that he protect the lambs!
The truly humble person helps to build up others, not to tear them down. He is a stepping-stone, not a stumbling block. Therefore, anything that makes me stumble must be removed from my life, for if it is not, I cause others to stumble. Jesus had uttered similar words in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:29–30). Paul used the eye, hand, and foot to illustrate the mutual dependence of members of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:14–17).
Humility begins with self-examination, and it continues with self-denial. Jesus was not suggesting that we maim our bodies, for harming our physical bodies can never change the spiritual condition of our hearts. Rather, He was instructing us to perform “spiritual surgery” on ourselves, removing anything that causes us to stumble or that causes others to stumble. The humble person lives for Jesus first and others next—he puts himself last. He is happy to deprive himself even of good things, if it will make others happy. Perhaps the best commentary on this is Philippians 2:1–18. (Worth your time to read…again.
Dear Heavenly Father,
In just a few words from Jesus, with an example, you teach us what you expect from us with clarity and simplicity. I repent of times this week when I thought of myself first and complained when my comfort level was pushed. Cleanse me. Renew a right Spirit in me. Thank you for always correcting our position and stance as we journey here so that we can stay focused on you and on the right path. Thank you for teaching us Kingdom living that leads to peace, joy, and greater love.
In Jesus Name, Amen