Tuesday, July 15, 2014

God’s Standard Of Importance

Matthew 18:1-14

“At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.  Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:1-4)

Human beings tend to be very competitive, wanting to always outdo someone else, and Jesus’ disciples were no exception.  They frequently argued about who would be the greatest or have the most important place.    Here they were asking Jesus to tell them what was required to be greatest.

Setting a little child among them, Jesus said that the key to being greatest was to have an attitude like that of the little child.  In fact. A person could not even be saved unless they were willing to set aside their pride and come as trustingly and freely as the little child.  The person who would do that would be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, not the person who tried hardest to get the recognition.

“And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.  But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:5-6)

Anyone who received those who came with such an attitude in the name of the Lord, or as a Christian, welcomed Christ.  Anyone who turned them away would be better off to have a weight hung around his neck and be tossed into the sea to drown.  Over the years we have seen a number of churches make it clear that only people who met certain standards of race, dress or age were welcome.  Matthew 19:13-14 and James 2:1-9 deal with these situations as well. 

Jesus said that such a pastor or church would be better off to have their life ended than to take such an attitude.   I can only guess what the punishment will be for a pastor or church which refuses to allow little children to come because they might disrupt the service, or a church which will not allow a man to take part in a service unless he is wearing a coat and tie, or will not allow someone from another race to worship.  By their actions they have denied and rejected Christ.

“Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!  Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.  And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.” (Matthew 18:7-9)

It is impossible to avoid hurting people’s feelings from time to time, but God takes it quite seriously.  People who deliberately or thoughtlessly hurt others either physically or emotionally will be severely punished.  If a person is unable to control his hand or foot or eye, it would be better to have them removed than to face God’s judgment for not stopping them.

“Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.  For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.

How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?  And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.  Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” (Matthew 18:10-14)

While we may not think it matters that we hurt or ignore seemingly unimportant people, there are no unimportant ones with God.  God knows where each one is at all times because Jesus came to save those who have been lost.  God is like a man who had a hundred sheep, but when he missed one, put the others into a safe place and went to hunt for the lost one.  II Peter 3:9 says God is “…not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” which is just what Jesus said.  He will not be happy if we turn people away.  

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