February 20 – Matthew 18:1-6
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.
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.
• 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?