Matthew 18:1-5, 10 - At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" And calling to Him a child, He put him in the midst of them and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in My Name receives Me ... See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven."
"Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
Most of us have heard Jesus' words so often, we are not properly shocked by them. Aw, how cute, we may think. Children are so lovely, so innocent. That must be what Jesus is referring to. Except ... kids aren't really pure and innocent, are they? Any preschool teacher can tell you otherwise. Children are sinners like adults, and differ mainly in having less experience—and less power and opportunity to do harm.
So what is Jesus after when He tells us to become like children? It seems to me that the single defining trait of a child is helplessness. A child has nothing to offer, nothing to bargain with. Children have no money, no power, no prestige, no experience and talents and skills. They cannot protect themselves, because everyone around them is bigger, stronger, and smarter. They are natural victims—unless they find a protector.
This is what Jesus calls us to recognize about ourselves. We are in fact just this helpless, whether we realize it or not. Oh, we may have more education or street smarts or power or money. But none of that does any good against the attacks of sin, death, and the devil. When it really matters, we are all as helpless as newborns, and blessed are the people who realize that fact and turn wholeheartedly to Jesus for protection! Those people have given up on any idea of saving themselves. They are putting all of their trust in their Savior, in Jesus—and that makes them the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Everything they have, they have from Jesus.
He is the help of the helpless. He is the One who holds them in His hands, and who warns everyone who comes near to do them no harm. God the Father will not forget those who harm His little ones—and that includes not just children, but anyone, even you, who has fled to Him for refuge. He treasures us as His own Son. As Jesus said, "Whoever receives one such child in My Name receives Me." And from that we know how much God cares about us—and how carefully we should cherish the people around us.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, help me to trust in You and in nothing else. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
1. Do you like being helpless? Why or why not?
2. What are you tempted to trust in to protect you?
3. What practical things can you do to recognize the high value God sets on the helpless people around you?
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