“Except ye … become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). This stern warning from Christ is repeated in Luke 18:17 and Mark 10:15. Just what is Christ telling us in these verses? Are we to become immature? Is that what God wants His Kingdom to be governed by—a bunch of babies? Obviously not!
Continue in Matthew 18 for the answer, verse 4: “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” God wants us to become humble as little children, not childish in our understanding or actions (1 Corinthians 14:20). Neither is God talking about a put-on, outward form of self-denial or penance. True humility must be lived—not put on—as the image that is so often seen of clerics hanging their heads, wearing brown robes, their faces drawn and depressed, looking down to the earth with their hands folded.
True humility is lived every day through service to others, thankfulness, faith toward God and many, many other areas. “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister” (Matthew 20:28). Do we live our lives expecting to be served, and trying to get others to serve us, or are we trying to see how often we can serve others? This attitude of humility and service must be put into practice throughout the year—every day of our lives! Christ, while living on this Earth, was an example for each of us to try to emulate. How well are we doing with this great task?
We can serve in many different ways and in many different places. We often hear of helping widows, the elderly or little children; but we also have many opportunities to serve that are perhaps not quite as obvious. For example, jumping in and helping someone get a job done at work, even if you’re not getting paid for it or it doesn’t fit your “job description,” is a good way to serve. There are usually plenty of jobs that could use a volunteer at Church services each week. What about serving others through your prayers on their behalf? The list is endless; but the point is, service is a way of life and is perhaps one of the purest forms of humility. It must grow in us and become second nature to us.
Certainly, the Bible makes it clear that God hates vanity and a proud look. Besides fasting, what better way is there to break our vanity and draw us closer to God than by serving others? Also, remember to serve others how you are needed, not how you want to. If you only serve when or how you want, then you’re not really being a true servant.
To simplify this whole subject down to its basic core, we’re talking about God’s way versus Satan’s way; give versus get. The “give way” and the “get way” is really what it all boils down to when it comes to humility and becoming as a little child.
Something that goes hand in hand with humility and becoming as a little child is thankfulness. How thankful are you? It is so easy to take things for granted.
Herbert W. Armstrong once said that he felt the greatest sin in America was unthankfulness!
We should certainly thank God for all our physical blessings, but how much more should we thank God for our spiritual blessings? They truly are tremendous!
The Bible tells us to exalt others higher than ourselves (Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11). However, it is so easy to exalt ourselves while pinpointing the sins of others. This doesn’t mean we should go around as naive fools, looking through rose-colored glasses, but we should be giving God the credit for any good in our lives.
Even Christ said, “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God” (Matthew 19:17). We must exalt others higher than ourselves, being humble and thankful, not gossiping about others or judging them (Matthew 7:1).
Remember, “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). We must be sure to look at others from “their eyes” so to speak and not judge them, but help them.
When you see a person’s sin, remember that with a different childhood, different parents or a different environment, you, too, could be struggling with the same sin and perhaps not doing as good a job at overcoming as he is. Go to God’s Word for guidance in dealing with others, and remember to take a good look at yourself before you get too involved in looking at others.
Being a father of four, there is hardly a day that goes by in which I don’t look at my children and think of how God must be looking at me. The joy they can bring after a hard day at work is indescribable. The innocence in their eyes and complete faith in “daddy” makes me understand why faith is the only way to please God.
Outflowing Concern for Others
When I look into one of my children’s rooms, I normally see them playing together, laughing, sharing, and my oldest trying to help and teach my youngest. The joy and satisfaction this brings me is overwhelming, but I’m sure it is small compared to the joy God has when He sees His children getting along as they should. However, just as I have to correct my children from time to time, so too must God correct us for not treating our brothers and sisters properly. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35). Having true, outflowing concern for others is what Christ is talking about.
Perhaps the final block to understanding humility is repentance. Only when a person is really humble, can he or she truly repent before God. Have you ever seen an arrogant or rebellious child really be sorry for something he or she did wrong? On the other hand, there is nothing sweeter than a child’s face when he realizes a mistake he’s made and responds to a parent’s correction with a humble and repentant attitude. We too must respond humbly to God’s correction. As Gerald Flurry stated in From the Beginning, “Our eternal future is being shaped by how childlike we are toward Christ’s correction.” When we ask for mercy and tell God how sorry we are and truly repent, our loving God can’t forgive enough or show enough mercy. This can only come after humility is established first. No wonder God called David a man after His own heart (Acts 13:22). David meant it when he repented, and God was eager to forgive, just as He is for you and me.
It is so easy to grow out of that childlike attitude into a wrong attitude of rebellion. We must guard against this!
All too often, the teenage years bring rebellion, resentment toward authority and/or government, and a distrust between themselves and the older generation. They think they know more than their fathers. This can also happen to us, spiritually. We must guard against feelings of superiority and being big in our own eyes.
As we draw closer to the return of Jesus Christ, let’s not be immature babies, unable to come off the mother’s milk. Neither can we be proud, rebellious teenagers; rather, let’s strive to be mature, obedient, thankful and very humble children of God.