Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.
James 4:10 NIV
About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. “So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Matthew 18:1-2,4 NLT
When I visit this story in Scripture my mind sees a sweet encounter. The disciples, so preoccupied with prominence, pose a question flavored with pride. Instead of rebuking them for entertaining arrogance, Jesus takes the opportunity to teach them about heaven’s economy.
I see Jesus crouch low to the ground with a twinkle in His eye as He motions a child to come. I see the child with tiny feet wrapped in leather sandals shuffling across the hard soil and straight into Jesus’ arms. I imagine Jesus’ delight to have a few stolen moments with this child. I hear a soft tender response as He reveals the true meaning of greatness in the Kingdom while He wraps a little one in warmth like a thick winter blanket. Jesus loves the little children!
Can you imagine how the disciples must have felt when Jesus hijacked their preconceived notions by bringing a child before them? Their natural response to children was to shuffle them out of the way. (See Matthew 19:13) Besides, human reasoning does not support the use of a child to demonstrate greatness. But since when does human reasoning contribute to God’s economy? In heaven’s economy putting on greatness is to put on the skin of a child.
Why? In youth a child naturally looks to his father for all of his needs. He knows his father’s hand is the place of provision. A child embodies trust, openheartedness, and love.
As the child grows things generally take a turn. At the onset of adolescence his mind begins to expand. He realizes his world has broader boundaries and more opportunity than he ever knew. So often the child takes the wrong turn at this juncture. He foolishly tells himself that he can rely on his own wit and strength to handle his expanding world. He looks to his father less and less and leans upon his own strength more and more.
As the child grows life’s abrasion has a way of wearing away innocence until an adult emerges. Too often an adult emerges adorned in grown-up skin, armored with callouses, and depleted of sensitivity. Bound within the confines of a hardened shell the adult has lost touch with the agility and openheartedness of the child within. No longer rightly postured he stands tall on his own two feet in self-sufficiency and fabricated strength. Sadly the cost of grown-up skin is the death of the child within and the misconception that God’s assistance is rarely needed.
There is never a season under time that we don’t need our Father to guide and protect us. Taking our eyes off Him and focusing on the world is a temptation we all face daily. But keeping our eyes fixed on the Lord should be an everyday practice. Peter can attest to this. Let’s look at the “water walker” when he took his eyes off Jesus in a critical moment when he needed the Lord.
It happened in Matthew 14:28-31. The disciples were in a boat in the middle of a stormy sea. Just then Jesus appeared walking on the water. Peter asked if he could join Him. As Peter stepped out of the boat and walked upon the waves his feet defied gravity. It must have felt surreal to walk on water. What was that like?
But then he made a detrimental mistake. He took his eyes off Jesus and focused instead on the churning wind. His heart grew fearful and his feet began to sink. His strength wasn’t sufficient to save him, his abilities not able to keep him afloat. In his vulnerability he cried out to Jesus. Peter’s humility made him realize he needed the strong arm of the Lord. True to the Savior’s beautiful nature Jesus reached out and lifted Peter.
It was trust that provoked Peter to step out of the boat in the first place. It was dependence that caused Peter to cry out to the Savior when he began to sink into the raging sea.
Typical of all of us, isn’t it? We get ahead of ourselves much the same as an adolescent learning about the world. But when life draws us into vulnerability we receive the revelation that we aren’t as capable as we thought.
Narrow is the gate that collects hearts with childlike faith. Few are the eyes fixed daily upon the Lord. Meager is the number of God’s children who lean upon God in humility knowing that to be humble is to be great. Truly to be great both here and in heaven is to live our lives with the beautiful posture of a child.
Give this thought time to marinade in your spirit. It may be a privilege to be a child of God, but it is a responsibility to remain childlike.
Question to Ponder
Are you an adult in your heart or are you a child of God?