I’ve walked streets like those pictured, and if you’re not careful your walk may come to a sudden stop by stones that make you stumble and fall.
“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but 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 around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matthew 18:5-6
All the disciples were sure they had to be on the short list of those who were the greatest in the kingdom of heaven; after all they were hanging out with Jesus. But more than that they had been sent out by Jesus to preach the gospel; as they did demons were cast out and the sick were healed. Those were certainly qualifications that should be on the resumé of anyone who would be the greatest. Of course Peter, James and John knew they had an “ace up their sleeve” having just been with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration; how many of the other disciples could boast of seeing Jesus with Moses and Elijah?
Jesus surprised them with His answer (doesn’t He always do that?). Jesus puts a child in their midst telling them that “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (v. 3). Those who humble themselves as a child will be counted among the greatest in the kingdom.
So much for our list of achievements that we think will make us great.
Jesus continues saying, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me” (v. 5). I don’t think Jesus is talking only about children (no, we don’t all have to sign up to work in the nursery or preschool at church, but maybe those kids could teach us something). Instead, Jesus is talking about those with the childlike humility He just described as marking the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
We often confuse humility as thinking less of oneself, yet none of us would say Jesus belittled Himself. Genuine humility does not devalue one’s ability or strength. Instead, with a proper view of oneself, the humble will put others first like Jesus did (see Php. 2:3-11) So when we embrace those who in genuine humility put the needs of others ahead of their own comfort or desires, then we have recognized Jesus’ coming.
But Jesus didn’t stop there; it is not enough to just welcome the humble. He continued saying, “but 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 around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (v. 6). Again, don’t just think about children; Jesus is talking about those who humble themselves like a child.
Jesus tells us not to cause the humble to “sin.” Not many of us are going to intentionally go out and entice someone to tell a lie, steal, or break any of the other Ten Commandments. Sin, or rebellion against God and lawlessness is the Greek word hamartia; it is this sin that Paul said leads to death (see Rom. 6:23).
Jesus is talking about something else; He uses the word skandalizō , from which we get our word scandal. This “sin” literally means to put a stumbling block or impediment in the way; it’s making things difficult. So a better translation would be causing these little ones to “stumble” (see the footnote in the ESV or NIV translation).
Now let’s put these pieces together with what Jesus said about the millstone.
Those with childlike faith and humility, that is those who actively follow Jesus’ example by putting the needs of others ahead of their personal interest, these will be the greatest in the kingdom. However, some well meaning religious people will make it difficult for these to humbly put their faith into action. They are those who Jesus said will put stumbling blocks in their way. Such religious people will discover that it would have been better “to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (v. 6).
Sounds to me like well intentioned religious people lack the childlike humility necessary for entrance into the kingdom of heaven. They are too busy making pointing people to follow their religious path (one Jesus said is filled with stumbling blocks), rather than following the path of childlike humility that God requires.
I need to walk (a.k.a. “live”) daily with childlike faith and humility, which means putting the needs of others first and doing all I can to meet their need. I also need to remove the stumbling blocks of religion helping others to likewise learn to walk with childlike faith and humility as Jesus requires.
Yes to Yield
LORD Jesus, forgive me for the times when I have taken the easy path (often thought of as being mature), but actually was encouraging a religious path filled with stumbling blocks. Holy Spirit continue to teach me what it means to walk with childlike faith and humility. Empower me to say, “No” to my selfish and self-centered desires often looking to satisfy the desires of my flesh, and to say “Yes” living by the Spirit with genuine humility for the benefit of others.