"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Friday, September 17, 2010

Matthew 18:1-14 -- Lessons from Children & The Seriousness of Sin

 1At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" 
 2He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 

 5"And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. 6But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 

 7"Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! 8If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.

 10"See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.

 12"What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.

In reading this section of Matthew 18, I took a few notes on what stood out to me the other day.  

Jesus wanted us to change and become like little children. He clarifies this by saying we have to humble ourselves.  Adults rarely like humility.  We are creatures of pride, are we not?   My Quest Study Bible says we are not to become childish in the sense that we whine and complain and throw temper tantrums when we don't get our way, but we should have childlike faith.  "The qualities of humility, trust, receptivity and a lack of self-sufficiency all characterize the person of faith.  The kingdom of God is not earned by human effort, but received in childlike trust as a gift of the mercy and grace of God." (pg. 1412)

Children rarely feel they must earn a good parents' love and care.  Coming into this world as very dependent creatures, they are simply lavished with care and attention from birth. Even as they grow capable of putting forks to mouths and dressing themselves, they still depend on caregivers supplying them with food and clothing until they are on the brink of adulthood and have jobs for themselves. (Even then most seem to want mom and dad to provide the basics so they can spend their cash on entertainment...or so I've often noticed.)   Children accept gifts.  They never try to give them back to you saying "no you shouldn't have" or try to earn them. They appreciate gifts! Even if they forget to say "thank you" if you give them new toys, their eyes often express their delight in having new things to enjoy!  How it must please God the Father when we accept His gifts! I wonder if He delights in the expressions of pleasure when He sees our faces light up at the beauty of a sunset or the vastness of the ocean or the wonder of the eagle soaring high above the earth.

Some believe "little child" in this passage can also apply to new believers who would be infants in their new faith.

I took note of verse 7 which says these awful things MUST come, yet Jesus pronounces "woe" to the one who brings sinful things to the world.

Verse 8 shows us the seriousness of sin and how we should want to be apart from it rather than hold onto it as if it were a small pet we nurture and feed.  Jesus is talking painful separations here with this cutting off limbs and gouging out eyes!  He didn't take sin as something playful and cute as my society often does. Jesus didn't glorify sin.  And while we often think of sin as those big things such as murder and adultery and abusing drugs, God includes such things as envy, gossip, hatred, fits of rage, bitterness, lying, selfish ambition and pride!  How many of us are free of all those things?

About verse 10 my Bible notes "no one is too insignificant to be noticed in heaven." 

I love that the Father doesn't want any of these little ones to be lost, and like the good shepherd, He seeks them.

What stands out to you from this passage or my notes? Thoughts?


sanil said...

I like the things you had to say about it. :) I would add that maybe another way to look at it is that kids don't usually start things with set ideas on how to do them. That sort of goes along with humility, but adults can be set in their ways and not as willing to try and fail, or to be instructed on how to do better. Kids are all about experimentation, and usually eager to learn. That would be a great attitude to have as adults.

Susanne said...

Sanil, thank you! I always enjoy your feedback as you bring up interesting points/perspectives. That's so true about children not being so set in their ways....do you think Jesus was maybe saying the people in the crowd were likely stuck in a rut of keeping the law without the required mercy (rather than sacrifice) perhaps? Maybe he wanted them to stop with the old ways in order to bring them into new life?

I appreciate what you added!

Suroor said...

No one is insignificant in Heaven? Does it mean that everyone is equal in this world or that when and if we make it to heaven we will all be equal?

Susanne said...

Suroor, that's a good question. That quote was actually a note in the margin of my study Bible so I'd only be speculating. I think the Bible teaches that God sees all and maybe they meant God sees the plight of the poor and weak just as much as He sees the power and wealth of the strong. Children are symbolic of the weak and needy in society. But as for it being NOW or if we make it to heaven, I don't know. I'll have to ponder this as I walk. Very good question...hmmm.

Susanne said...

"Children are symbolic of the weak and needy in society."

I guess I should say they COULD BE symbolic instead of "are." I know children are valued by many cultures, but still they ARE weak and needy sooooo.... anyway.