The disciples came to Jesus to ask who is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. This is a common thought of man. When we look at things like the Guinness book of records we see a collection of the most outstanding achievements of mankind in all disciplines. When we think about the “Who’s Who” books we see a list of who is considered to be the greatest of all men. But all of these approaches will not identify who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
God does not think like man. God does not consider greatness the same way that man does. To think someone is greater than someone else is a human thing. It is not of God. God does not show partiality, but looking at someone as being greater than someone else is to be partial to one over another.
Paul understood this issue quite well too. He wrote, “Not that we venture to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another, and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” (2 Corinthians 10:12) To measure someone against someone else shows a lack of understanding. The truth of the matter is that we are all different. So what if someone can’t jump, ski, surf, ride a bike, drive a car or run faster than someone else? So what if someone is more creative artistically, dramatically or musically than someone else?
The truth is not everyone can do everything better than everyone else. When we compare someone to someone else, we dent the capabilities of the person considered lesser than the other and who may have other qualities that are greater and more beneficial than the person being idolized. Consider those in the public spotlight from the entertainment world. Some of them a re on drugs, in brawls, heavy drinkers and caught in all kinds of scandals. Is it right to idolise them when their behaviour is worse than the rest of society?
So when the disciples asked Jesus who was greatest in the kingdom of heaven they were thinking like men, not like God. To answer them Jesus took a child 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, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3-4) He did not say that children were the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven, but those who turned and became like a child.
When we think of children we think of innocence, humility and openness to learn. Children are sponges and take in everything about the world around them. Likewise a child of God needs to take in everything about the kingdom of God. They need to be humble under the mighty hand of God and they need to repent and become innocent like children.
Jesus also warns that anyone who puts a stumbling block or temptation into the paths of one of these people who are children of the kingdom of God are in a dangerous place. He says, “…whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Verse 6) This is a serious indictment on those who would try to lead God’s people astray.
If we would be great in the kingdom of heaven then we need to take in Jesus’ words. We need to become like a child and learn from Jesus. We need to seek out the ways of God by following Jesus and learn to do what is pleasing to him. Then we will truly become great in the kingdom of God.