Scripture: Matthew 18:1-9
Key verses: (4-5) “Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”
Reflection: The disciples went to Jesus and asked: “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” This seems like a very strange question to ask unless they were each vying for a special position in God’s kingdom. Didn’t they already know that God is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven and everyone else is just – everyone else. Position and power are human constructs meant to elevate and exclude. It’s the way we sort and label people according to the values and standards of the world. Of course, it’s important to recognize people for their achievements – to congratulate them. But, this can often lead to thinking more highly of one’s self than one should. When achievements are used to give a person value, there might be a problem. God values us because God loves us – even the worst of us are loved by God. Jesus surprised his disciples by calling a child forward. Children at that time were of value for the adults they would become; not for being children. No one aspired to be a child. But, Jesus told his disciples that they must become humble like children. What does this humility look like? It is the willingness to set aside a place of honor, or to give up, voluntarily, the insistence to have your own way or freely give up something because it would help someone else. These are the kinds of things children are taught to do and yet, as we get older, we are taught to achieve and succeed and win a place of honor. There is nothing inherently wrong in doing your best and doing well in life. It becomes a problem when we insist on being the greatest at the expense of everyone else – at least from a Christian perspective. We are called to a different way of life.
Jesus reminds us to be humble like children and to welcome children in his name because this is the same as welcoming Jesus. He warned them about placing a stumbling block in a child’s way: “Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks!” Of course, there are stumbling blocks in life, but when we intentionally use them to hurt someone else there will be consequences. We have seen this played out across the globe. Jesus’ reminder is a good one. Don’t think too highly of yourself, choose to become like a child, and protect others who are helpless, especially children.
Prayer: Almighty God, we admire humility, but we struggle to put it into practice in our daily lives. Remind us that we are not called to be taken advantage of, but to willingly submit our lives to you. Help us to act innocently and openly with one another – particularly in this unfriendly world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Author: Deborah Conner
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].