About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. 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. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 18:1-4 NLT
Do we live our lives like this is a practical teaching, or just something cute Jesus said? I mean seriously, how could a little child really represent the greatest person in heaven?
I am afraid that even in the church, we have a man-made hierarchical system that defies the teachings of Jesus. We just can’t seem to swallow the fact that someone like a humble primary Sabbath School student could be greater than the General Conference President. Surely Jesus didn’t actually mean what He said in Matthew 18:1-4! Surely He was just trying to say something cute, right? Or did Jesus really mean it?
In the medical field I have heard of doctors looking down on Registered Nurses, and RN’s looking down on Licensed Practical Nurses. This may come as a surprise for some of you in the medical field, but many of us outside of the medical field have great respect and appreciation for everyone taking care of our health. We appreciate caring and compassionate LPNs just as much as doctors. We respect LPNs and RNs just as much and sometimes even more so than we do doctors. Fran, a friend of mine in Texas, was a nurse who was studying to become a nurse practitioner. She was driven to use all of her time studying hard to become a nurse practitioner, because her third grade teacher in a parochial school, told her she would never be smart enough to be a nurse. She was determined to prove the teacher wrong. The thing is though, is that the teacher had already died and would never know. Meanwhile, the patients that came to see Fran knew nothing about her struggle to prove her self worth. All they knew was that they needed her help. So long as Fran could help them, they didn’t really care about an rivalry with a teacher who was not even in the picture anymore. Fran was already loved, respected and appreciated by those who needed her. Any condescension from a former teacher was totally irrelevant to Fran’s medical ministry.
Likewise, as I do Gospel Work in the community, I find that many people in the community do not see a distinction between pastors, lay pastors or Bible workers. To them a Gospel worker is a Gospel Worker, period.
Then Moses told the people of Israel, “The Lord has specifically chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. The Lord has filled Bezalel with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts. He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze. He is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft. Exodus 35:30-33 NLT
God not only knows kings, prophets and priests. He also knows construction workers, and He fills them with His Spirit and wisdom just like prophets and kings! This has me thinking Jesus was not just being cute when He said that being like a humble child was to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. He really meant it, for real!
About 35 years ago, my friend was flying on the company jet. She had an entry=level position, but was invited on the trip since there was an empty seat, and the the plane was going to where she had family. Having never flown on the jet before, she got on and just took the first available seat. As the flight was nearing its destination, it was pointed out to my friend that she had taken the company vice president’s seat. Horrified that she had done so, she asked where the vice president was sitting. She was informed that he was sitting in the back of the plane. She looked back and found him sitting alone in the back just as happy as could be. Either the vice president did not think too highly of himself, or he realized whatever seat he was sitting in was the vice president’s seat. Maybe both, but he never said anything to my friend. Maybe he did not look down on my friend, because he realized he was no greater than his employees.
Even though Eli had his problems, I have to hand it to him. When He realized God was talking to little Samuel, he told him next time he heard the voice to say, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” Eli could have thought to himself, That couldn’t be God talking, because if it was God, He would be talking to me and not a little boy. Praise God, Eli was humble enough to realize that God may just want to talk to a little boy instead of the high priest. See 1 Samuel 3:1-21.
Six verses after telling us a humble child-like person is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven Jesus said,
“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. Matthew 18:10 NLT
That confirmed to me that Jesus really meant when He said that anyone as humble as a little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.