February 20 – Matthew 18:1-6

You’ll see some similarities between this passage and our one from last week, Matthew 11:25-30. Back in chapter 11 Jesus praised his Father for having revealed himself to little children, a countercultural way of expressing how God reveals himself to the least, the last, and the lost. Here Jesus takes that line of thought a step further, using the image of a child to reveal the countercultural value system of the Kingdom of Heaven, which values us not for our achievement, strength, or impressiveness but for our humility.

We’ve skipped ahead seven chapters since last week, so for a bit of context, Matthew 18 starts the last big chunk of Jesus’ teaching before his triumphal entry. 18:1-20:34 provides a ton of content about how Jesus’ church is intended to live, addressing things like confrontation and reconciliation (18:15-20), divorce and marriage (19:1-12), and, repeatedly, the upside-down value system of the Kingdom (18:1-6; 19:13-15; 20:1-16; 20:20-28).

In contrast with the kingdoms of this world, God’s kingdom values the little (18:4; 19:14), those who haven’t “earned” it (20:12), the last (20:16), and the servant (20:27). It seems as though this is a crucial concept Jesus wants to hammer into his disciples’ heads prior to his suffering and death: “You know that the rules of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you.”(20:25-26)

But why exactly? What’s wrong with wielding authority to accomplish things? And what’s wrong with esteeming people who achieve amazing things? Note that Jesus isn’t forbidding the use of authority but the “lording” of authority; similarly, he isn’t commanding us to never applaud the successes of others, but to not structure our community valuations based on those things. Where the world treats the successful, beautiful, talented, and strong as more valuable, the kingdom refuses to. And this starts with the person of Jesus.

“Whoever would be first among you must be your servant, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”(20:27-28) Let’s see the family of God from his perspective. Where we may feel awed around a celebrity or billionaire, God is not—all the successful, beautiful, talented, and strong people in the world are amateurs compared to God. The economy of God’s Kingdom is just entirely different than the world around us. What God values is not those who think they are strong but those who know they are weak, those who would rather turn humbly to their Father’s arms than continue to seek their satisfaction in the brutal markets of human fame and success.

Think of what childlikeness helps you receive from God that pride and achievement would make you try to earn on your own, things like hope, acceptance, forgiveness, and worth. Think of what valuing humility means for the community of Jesus’ church, where the marginalized, the common, the weak, and those typically left out and forgotten by the world can not only belong but be honored. Such is Jesus’ upside-down Kingdom, and prayerfully this week we would be confronted by any of our misaligned value systems and draw near to our loving Father by his grace.

Questions for Discussion
• Could someone read Matthew 18:1-6 for us?

• What stood out to you in this passage?

• How does this passage describe the value system in Jesus’ kingdom?

• How does that value system compare to the value systems in your workplace, university, neighborhood, etc.?

• How does that value system compare with how you tend to recognize and value others?

• How might childlikeness help us understand what it means to live as a Christian?

• How might “becoming like a child” grow your faith in Jesus or love for the Father?

• What might this passage mean for the community life of our church?