“I assure you, unless you turn from your sins and become as little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.“ – Vs 3 (NLT)
Unless you turn from your sin, turn around, change, are converted, have a change of heart, return to square one and start over – those are just a few of the various ways in which this verse has been translated. Jesus is calling for a change. He is telling His disciples and us, that we must go through a change to follow Him. Metaphorically, Jesus is saying each of us must turn ourself from our current course of conduct. We must reverse course. We must change our way of thinking. This statement by Jesus was in response to the disciples’ question, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
These guys were obsessed with position, power, and prominence. And they were wanting to know what their place in the pecking order of heaven was going to be. This seems to have been a regular point of debate for them. Luke records another time in which the topic of greatness was dominating their thoughts: “And they began to argue among themselves as to who would be the greatest in the coming Kingdom” (Luke 22:24). This one took place at the final Passover meal He shared with His disciples and immediately after Jesus had announced one of them would betray Him. Over in the book of Mark, we have recorded an instance when James and John came to Jesus and requested, “In your glorious Kingdom, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one at your right and the other at your left” (Mark 10:37). Matthew even lets us know that their mother was involved. “Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him.” When Jesus asked what she wanted, she said, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left” (Matthew 20:20-21).
Power, position, and prominence. Those are powerful things in our world. But in the kingdom of God, they seem to have no place. Jesus tells the disciples that they must become “like little children.” If they don’t, they will never enter the kingdom of heaven. So what is He talking about? Humility. Jesus is telling them that they must continue to humble themselves until they become like a child – exhibiting trust, openness, and an eagerness to learn. They must develop a child’s simple trust. A child’s vulnerability. A child’s sense of dependence. A child’s honesty and willingness to openly express their needs to the One who can meet those needs. These childlike qualities are what constitute true greatness in God’s kingdom. Paul said, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). He was talking about strength in the midst of persecutions. But his attitude is what Jesus is talking about. It is a willingness to admit my weakness and my need for God’s strength. It is a constant realization that I am anything BUT great. I am undeserving of God’s love, mercy, and grace. Rather than worry about what my position or place of prominence will be in the kingdom, I should rejoice like a little child that I get to be there at all.
This attitude of childlike humility is not a one-time deal. It is something we are to develop over time. Jesus said that we are to become like children. The Greek word can be translated “begin to be.” Unless we begin to be like a child in our attitudes and actions, we can never enter the kingdom of heaven. It is God’s grace that allows any of us to enter into His kingdom. None of us can enter heaven pridefully, arrogantly, or deservedly. We enter only as children, carried in the arms of Christ. We don’t enter by our strength, but by His. We don’t enter on our merits, but according to His. So why do we spend so much time here on earth worrying about our power and position? It will not get us one step closer to heaven. It has no value in God’s eternal economy. So why waste so much energy and effort about who is the greatest? I should spend far more time rejoicing in the amazing fact that I am His child. I can’t take care of myself. I can’t feed myself. I can’t defend myself. I can’t save myself. But He has done all that for me.
Father, I am amazed that You have chosen to make me Your son. You have chosen to adopt me and make me Your heir. Help me to reject any thoughts of my own greatness or deservedness. I have done nothing to earn or merit Your grace, mercy, and love. You just chose to love me. May I continue to become like a little child. May I grow daily in my dependence on You. May gratitude be my attitude, not pride. May humility characterize my life, not pride. May my faith become increasingly more childlike every day. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men