Matthew 18:2-4 He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
This is a well-known teaching of Jesus, yet it is ignored more than it is practiced. It is interesting that where the NIV says “change,” and other English translations use words like “turn” and “be converted,” the Japanese says “repent.” That points out the vital truth that repentance includes change, or it isn’t really repentance. In English we tend to think of repentance as something emotional, but the Japanese term means “regret and start over.” The Japanese language has some problems when it comes to communicating the Gospel, most notably (in my view) in expressing forgiveness, but when it comes to repentance it really shines. That said, what Jesus is talking about here is child-like simplicity. It specifies that He called a little child, one that had no pretensions. We get such distorted ideas of who and what we are! We are enormously valuable, but no one more so than another. Right after talking about how our gifting, and thus our functions, are different, Paul said, “Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10) Genuine humility isn’t denying your own gifts and abilities, but it is honoring others’ gifts and abilities equally. That’s why Jesus said that the person who “makes himself low,” as the Japanese expresses it, is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
I have certainly had my struggles with comparing myself to others, either favorably or unfavorably. Since my sports performance is very far from stellar, I have had a real inferiority complex in that area. Since I am blessed in verbal and spatial thinking, I have been conceited in those areas. Both are foolish. I am to recognize and acknowledge both strengths and weaknesses without thinking they affect intrinsic value. I am a beloved child of God, and that’s all the value I need. At the same time, every other human being is a beloved child of God by creation, and I am to be useful to God in calling them to accept His invitation to become His children by adoption as well, to live with Him eternally. I will not be effective in that if I come across as gloating in my blessings. I am to be like a little child, offering other children goodies from an unlimited supply.
Father, thank You for that last image You gave me. As I am sometimes painfully aware, I am gifted in teaching but not in marketing, in drawing people in. May I do the work of an evangelist, as Paul instructed Timothy, (2 Timothy 4:5) while praying for people to be added who are more gifted at that than I am. Keep me from using gifting as an excuse, but help me make the best use of what You have given me, so that the Body of Christ may be built up indeed, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!