At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
As I write, the Super Bowl is still two days away. Who’s going to win? Who’s going to be top of the game? By the time this is posted, we’ll all know. And the Academy Awards come up next month. Who’s going to be this year’s best actress, best actor, and best director? We’ll soon know.
While we’re at it, who’s the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? Who has top rank? Who’s runner-up? Certainly the disciples wanted to know. Their focus on greatness and position is perhaps a default for many of us, too. We know we can’t compete because there are so many heroes of faith down the years – truly great saints – who have done amazing things, suffered heavily, persevered mightily, and accomplished so much. But we still want to know: who’s the best of all?
Jesus tells the disciples they’re asking entirely the wrong question. Their focus is completely off-base. You can’t even enter the kingdom unless you change and take up the position of a child.
Children bring such joy. We so often think of them as open, accepting, trusting, simplistic, untainted by the world, and naïve in the very best of ways. But Jesus is focusing on something else. In his day children counted for nothing. They had no rank, no rights, no position, and certainly no accomplishments. In every way their position was entirely humble, without status.
Have that attitude, Jesus is saying. The kingdom isn’t about accomplishments. It’s about humbly accepting. Indeed, you can’t even get into the kingdom in the first place unless you have this stance. Entry to the kingdom is gift, pure and simple. And once in, we live solely on the basis of that ongoing gift. We simply receive.
We, of course, know more of the story than any of the disciples did at that point in time. We know that Jesus went to the cross, sacrificially taking the totality of our sin and punishment upon himself, securing forgiveness for us and opening the door into the kingdom. The only way we get in is by trusting his provision alone,not leaning on any of our own status or accomplishments. We need to humble ourselves, putting everything else aside, and trusting solely in Jesus.
That humility is also the ongoing attitude of the kingdom. Not rank, not power, not achievement. We’re to have the attitude which was also in Christ Jesus, laying aside rights and taking the position of a servant (Philippians 2:5-8).
Humbling yourself like a child is the ticket to kingdom greatness.It’s the continuous stance of receiving the kingdom as pure gift. At that point, “greatness” won’t even be the focus.
Lord Jesus, thank you for your provision – you have opened the doorway into the kingdom, offering it as pure gift. I can only receive. So, please, continually renew within me the attitude of a child, not focusing on any of my own accomplishments or supposed rank, but simply trusting myself wholly to you.
Pause: Take some time to simply sit in the Lord’s presence. Strip away anything that you might consider your own rank, prestige, or achievement. Lay it at Jesus’ feet. Receive. Bask in his presence. Give thanks.