Welcome to “Java For Life.” I am your barista, Pastor Tae. Allow me to fix you a devotional drink about the Christian life. Today’s cup is about being humble like a child.
This java takes us to that argument the disciples were having about who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. In Matthew 18:1-4 the disciples came to Jesus and ask, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus takes a little child and says, “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.”
What an interesting answer! I don’t know about you, but I must admit that I never thought of a child as humble. Honestly, I never looked at a child and said, “Boy, that child is great because he is so humble.” Have you ever thought that? Probably not.
And so, it strikes us that Jesus would describe a child this way and call us all to be like a child in order to be truly great in the kingdom. Actually it can be downright confusing to describe a child as humble. Maybe Jesus is saying something other than what we are thinking about with humility. Well, consider the following.
Consider that the concept of humility can be understood in two ways in the Bible. First, it can be understood as humility in character. Now, this is the concept that we are familiar with; that in our hearts, we are humble before God. But this concept of humility would be confusing in the context, because kids are generally not humble in character! Think about the general character of a child. Children are generally more inclined to be everything but humble. They are usually egocentric, selfish, entitled, and insensitive. So, when you think about it, kids are not humble in this sense! That’s why I don’t believe that this is the intended meaning of humility.
But there is another biblical meaning to humility that I believe fits with what Jesus is saying here, and that is, humility is status. This kind of humility is a reference to your position in life. In other words, a child is humble in the sense that the child knows that he/she is the lowest in rank. He/she has no authority. And especially when you consider that the biblical meaning of the child can be translated as infant, it reinforces this concept. An infant is humble in status in that he/she knows that he/she is completely dependent on someone else for everything. There is no pulling of rank nor declaration of a greater status over against another. A child accepts the status of dependence.
Looking at the situation in Matthew 18, the disciples were vying for position. They argued and pulled rank about being greater than the next person in the kingdom. And when Jesus saw their sinful ambition for self-glory and power, the master teacher shows them a powerful visual by bringing a child close to him and saying that true greatness is a recognition of one’s humble status before God in His kingdom.
If you’re meeting in a group, you can pause to discuss the vying of power and status in the church. Talk about the sinful motives of pursuing higher positions for self-glory and power. Discuss the temptation of seeking personal greatness.
Someone said that the kingdom of heaven is an upside-down kingdom. In the most basic way, it is the very opposite of any earthly kingdom where rank and file is everything. But in the kingdom of heaven, only God is above all and the rest of us become great when we recognize that we are not great but got there because of someone else’s work.
The truth is that we are part of the kingdom because of the work of Jesus. He got us in, and it’s as simple as that.
Consider today the meaning of true greatness. And until next time, acknowledge your status before God and serve that way in the church. For that humble style is part of the greater purpose for your life.