“BECOME AS LITTLE CHILDREN… TO ENTER THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
In Matthew 18:3, we read: “And [Jesus Christ] said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
“Childlike faith” is ecclesiastical parlance for, “We may not understand what God says in His Word, but we believe it. Children do not understand everything. We are called to be like children.” Certainly not! God does not want spiritually-immature Christians, people clueless to His doctrine. Ephesians 4:14 reminds us: “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;….” While this sad state describes the average professing Christian, it is not related to Matthew 18:3.
The context of Matthew 18:3 sets the tenor: “ 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.”
Verse 1 is crucial. The disciples are being selfish, as they desire to know who will be the prominent person in God’s earthly kingdom. In other words, it is not about Jesus Christ, the King, but about them. Who of them will be so honored with the exalted position? There is the attitude of competition, a desire to glorify self. Just by reading Christ’s scolding, we can sense that pride is their motivation. For that reason, the Lord beckoned a little boy and put him in the middle of the crowd. That child was a teaching aid: he was the personification of humility rather than ignorance. Draw your attention to verse 4: “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Children know their weaknesses and inadequacies, but adults have had so much influence from their own evil hearts and the evil world system that they have adopted an attitude of self-sufficiency. A child, still a sinner by birth, is nevertheless more compliant than an adult. Adults will argue because they have had more time to become self-centered and deceive themselves into autonomy (operating apart from the Creator God). Pride has set in. They have already gone through this educational system and are nearly impossible to reform. Habits, especially bad ones, are difficult to break. As we will see shortly, such arrogant independence is completely foreign to God’s Word. It does not belong in His kingdom.
Let us turn over to chapter 20 of Matthew to see a similar issue: “ Then came to him [the Lord Jesus] the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.  And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.  But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.  And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.”
Zebedee’s dear wife, mother of Apostles James and John (Matthew 4:21), meant well by seeking for her sons the two highest positions in Christ’s kingdom. However, all that did was upset the other 10 Apostles, pitting them against the two men. Such fleshliness and rivalry were Satan’s access to them all!
“ And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.  But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.  But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;  And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:  Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Christ corrected their thinking. He, Almighty God, should be served, and yet He was willing to serve. He had not come to glorify Himself, He had come to serve, and yet they were glorifying themselves instead of serving?! Again, their selfish attitude did not belong in God’s family. “But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;….” God honors the lowly servant, not the self-appointed ruler. As someone once rightly observed, “The way up in God’s kingdom is down!” The Gentiles—under Satan’s control—were the bullies and dictators, seeking to boss others. “Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them….” However, no person led by God’s Spirit will take control of another. Our sinful flesh will engage in such behavior, but never Almighty God!
The Apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter chapter 5: “ The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:  Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;  Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” Paul the Apostle said it this way in 2 Corinthians 1:24, “Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.” “Lording” over believers, having “dominion” over Christians, bullying them, is nothing but sinful flesh operating under the guise of “Bible.” (Go back to Matthew 20:25 and the idea of “exercising dominion.”)
Whether in Israel’s program, or our program, pride (especially religious pride) will send millions upon millions to an eternal Hell. They do not want God telling them what to do; rather they want to tell others what to do. They refuse to submit to His righteousness found in Christ’s finished crosswork. Instead, they go about attempting to establish their own “goodness,” their own righteousness (Romans 10:1-3). It is all about them. They want to be praised, worshipped, remembered, and obeyed. They desire the prominent positions in the assembly. As Philippians 2:3-11 says, selfishness and pride have no place in the life of the Christian any more than it had a place in the life of Jesus Christ Himself while He was on Earth.