Summary: The Kingdom of God is an upside down kingdom where to be a child is to be great and the proud are rejected.
“An Upside Down Kingdom”
(Matthew 18:1-4 ESV) “… 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 (little) children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this (little) child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
This morning as we explore this passage of scripture I will do my best to answer two questions. First, what does it mean and second, why does it matter. In examining this passage we find that there are two main elements involved; children and the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus said that we must become like little children. What does it mean to be a child? Am I supposed to go back to kindergarten to enter the kingdom of heaven? Are we supposed to abandon all that we have learned throughout our lives which makes us adults? To answer these questions we have to look at what it means to be a child.
Some of the characteristics of children are that they are little, they are short, some of them wear diapers, they drool, some of them suck their thumbs, and they fall down a lot.
Jesus is not telling us that to enter the kingdom of heaven we must be short, wear diapers, or drool. No, Jesus is not talking about external characteristics of children… but internal nature of children.
Children are sincere. A child will come to you with no agenda. Children are not cunning. When a little child says “I want cookie!” they mean exactly what they say.
Children are dependant. Babies are helpless. A child needs protection, love, and safety.
Children are full of love for others. I don’t know if there is anything better than a slobbery wet baby kiss. Children are little cups just waiting to be filled with love. And when the jar is full, it spills out to others.
The disciples were bickering about which one of them would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. They were trying to interpret the message of the kingdom of God according to what the world had taught them.
They were confusing the kingdom of heaven with the many kingdoms of the world.
Adam Clarke, in his commentary on the Bible writes, “Be as truly without worldly ambition, and the lust of power, as little children are, who act among themselves as if all were equal. The following saying of the poet Saady is very appropriate. “The hearts of infants being free from greed, what care they for a handful of silver more than for a handful of dust?”
Jesus is telling the disciples, and us, that in the kingdom of heaven it is not great stature, accomplishments, possessions, or achievements that matter most.
(1 Samuel 16:7 ESV) But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart."
The kingdom of heaven is an upside kingdom. If we are to truly grasp the message of being like little children, we are going to have to reject much of what the world has taught to us.
The world tells us that only the strong survive. The world tells us that beautiful people matter most. The world tells us that physical power is what matters most.
Listen to the words of the small and young David as he speaks to King Saul about the giant Goliath after all of the King’s most powerful warriors had been too afraid to face the giant.
(1 Samuel 17:32-36 ESV) “And David said to Saul, "Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine." And Saul said to David, "You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth."
But David said to Saul, "Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God."
Fulton J. Sheen, quoted in Men of Integrity says, “God does not love us because we are valuable. We are valuable because God loves us.”