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Become as Little Children

There is a very interesting passage, written within the Gospels, regarding who Jesus says is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. When we think of someone great, we might think of a king, a government official, a warrior, a champion in a sport or even someone who is skilled in trade, but what does Jesus say?

Matthew 18:1, “At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

Matthew 18:2, Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them,

Matthew 18:3, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 18:4, Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

This brings a lot of understanding to how God views being ‘great’. It’s not someone who has status in the world such as a celebrity or governmental official, but the Lord mentions the humblest and innocent amongst humanity – the children.

If you observe the character of a child, you will notice they are wide-eyed with curiosity in their interactions with the world around them and always asking questions. Children are always willing to learn and listen to what is being said to them, hence, what Jesus says about humility.

Children have very innocent minds; they see the best in other people and in the world around them. They haven’t developed distrust or a cynical worldview that we can see in many adults today.

For example, a lot of people struggle with believing God will come through for them whether in health, finances, career, family etc. Many times we have been let down by those around us, resulting in a negative, cynical and doubtful way of thinking. However, the faith of a child is simple: they don’t doubt they will be picked up from school, or that food will be on the table for dinner, rather, they trust their parents will provide for them.

Children are also very eager and willing to learn with an open heart from authority figures in their lives i.e., parents and teachers. The Apostle Paul was a proponent of the Church being educated in the word of God. He talked about the Church having many instructors, but few fathers; stating he had begotten them through the Gospel, and urged the Church to follow him as he followed Christ (ref 1 Co 4:15-16).  

Paul was an Apostle who begot/birthed the Church in his understanding of Christ with the doctrine/teachings he taught. The word begotten is spoken in the Jewish manner of the relation between a teacher and his disciples, to beget in a spiritual sense, to be the spiritual father of someone, that is, the instrument of his conversion to a new spiritual life (ref 1Co 4:15; Phm 1:10). [1]

This really brings an understanding of how one who humbles himself like a child can be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven because they are willing to learn, be disciplined and instructed. They don’t ‘kick against the goad’ so to speak (ref Acts 9:5), or rely on their own understanding (ref Pro 3:5). 

When one first begins their walk with the Lord they are likened to a child, or a baby because they lack understanding and wisdom of the Word of God, not knowing how to apply it to their lives. For this reason the Apostle Paul said Jesus gave the Church Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers so the Church could come into perfection.

Epheisians 4:11, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,

Ephesians 4:12, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,

Ephesians 4:13, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;

Ephesians 4:14, that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,”

Jesus said it is the pure in heart that will see God (ref Mat 5:8), and Peter tells us to love one another with a pure heart (ref 1 Pe 1:22). Children forgive quickly due to the purity inside of them. They can have a fight with another kid on the playground and go back to playing with them ten minutes later because they don’t hold on to grudges. Paul said we are not to be like children in our understanding, but in regards to malice/evil things to be like children (ref 1Co 14:20). Malice means to be evil in a moral sense, meaning wickedness of heart, life, and character (3). Of course, this isn’t to be mistaken to say the Lord wants us to have the mental state of a child, as there is a lack of experience and wisdom in children. Paul said that if an heir of all things remains a child, he doesn’t differ from a slave; needing a father to guide him (ref Gal 4:1-2). Someone with a childish understanding (mind) will never be able to receive the inheritance because they aren’t mature enough.  

Jesus wants us to be educated in His Word and be like a father, or one who is able to teach and instruct. But first, it’s important to be humble like a child in order to grow up in the faith, while still remaining child-like in our faith and hearts towards others. 

The word perfect actually means to be mature or full-grown. [3] Even if we start out as a child in our understanding of the faith, there is a promise from the Lord that through humility and an open heart, He will grow us in His wisdom and understanding.

Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go [teaching him to seek God’s wisdom and will for his abilities and talents], Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” 


  1. Word Study Dictionary- Begotten: (G1080)gennaō
  2. Thayer Dictionary – Perfect: (G5046)  teleios
  3. Word-Study Dictionary – Malice: (G2549) kakia

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