“Jesus called a little child to him and stood the child before his followers. Then he said, ‘I tell you the truth, you must change and become like little children. Otherwise, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. The greatest person in the kingdom of heaven is the one who makes himself humble like this child.” Matthew 18:2-4, NCV.
Jesus often spoke of things that confounded His listeners. When He told the Pharisee, Nicodemus, that “unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3), the learned teacher understandably asked, “How can a man be born when he is old?” (4). Again, Matthew in his writing quotes Jesus as if He is suggesting one should act like a child instead of an adult. Really? Is Jesus telling us to “go back to our childish ways?” Taking a closer look, Jesus is not telling us to act childish, rather “child-like;” there is a big difference!
Picture the scene: Jesus is surrounded by His disciples. The topic of discussion is philosophically deep… “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” someone asks (1). Thinking Jesus will declare one of them the deserved recipient, instead He “called a little child” standing nearby, saying, “one who makes himself humble like this child” is the “greatest person in the kingdom of heaven.” Ego’s deflated, the Halleluiah Chorus ringing in their self-righteous ears silenced,Jesus once again demonstrates to His followers both then and to His followers today, that heaven is not a place for the proud and haughty.
Humility is the absence of self-awareness, not its building up. Human beings are prone to the desire for greatness. Our culture celebrates greatness and individual recognition, and if you do not believe this, check out social media platforms. We want to be “liked.”
Faith in Jesus is simple enough for a child to grasp and profound enough to confound the most intellectual individual. This is a paradox where every human heart must begin the journey to eternal life. Humility is something we should all desire, but once we think we have achieved it, like grabbing at soap bubbles in the air, it is gone.