I’m still befuddled by Jesus’ stunning statement that if we do not humble ourselves and become like children, we can never enter the kingdom of heaven. “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3 ESV). It has helped me a bit to understand that He Himself did that very thing—became like a child. It is not only that our great, magnificent God came as a helpless baby, He also laid aside all powers when He grew into a man that would enable Him to rule over people as a king. It is true that He didn’t disallow Himself all His powers. Clearly, He still possessed the ability to heal, forgive, cast out demons, and exercise authority over nature. However, He did nothing that earthly kings and potentates do when they reign over others. He purposefully chose to deny Himself that power. “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53 ESV). From heaven’s point of view, our great Creator God became as helpless as a child when He dwelt on the earth.
It has also helped me somewhat to understand that He became the least in the kingdom of heaven. This is what Jesus said in Matthew 18:4: “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4). It helped me because I finally understood—please forgive my ignorance—that the greatest in the kingdom of heaven is…Him. Therefore, our powerful Jesus humbled himself like a child and thus became the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. You will not be able to humble yourself lower than He did.
My church and theological world has been turned topsy-turvy by such biblical truths. Here is one more. Jesus taught that the kingdom of heaven was like many things. Two of them are addressed here: “He put another parable before them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’ He told them another parable. ‘The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened’” (Matthew 13:31–33 ESV).
The kingdom of God is like the smallest of seeds.
The kingdom of God is like yeast.
The kingdom of God starts in the smallest way possible.
The kingdom of God grows all by itself.
Do we believe this? No, I don’t think we do. No, we must establish some strategy, some systemization; employ wealth, real estate, and talented people to grow in order to “grow God’s kingdom.” Where do we get these ideas?
True, as Paul said, some plant and some water: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6–7 ESV). Are you a planter? Great. Do you water what has been planted? Wonderful. Do you work hard? Good for you. However, read all of what Paul says here. “…he who plants nor he who waters is anything…” The amazing apostle Paul said that both he and Apollos were…nothing. Are you willing to bring that assessment to you and your ministry? And why should we bring that assessment? Because “only God gives the growth.” No, you are not “growing God’s kingdom.” Only He can cause seeds to sprout and grow. Only He can cause yeast to rise. You can’t do those things, and you will never be able to. This is a good and right thing to come to this understanding. It is good and right because then only He gets the glory for what He does. Oh, how quick we are to broadcast our successes, accomplishments, and numbers! When you plant a tomato seed, a grass seed, any kind of seed, do you say, “Look at how I made that tomato come up out the ground! Look how tall I’m making it grow!” Do you say, “I spread grass seed all over the lawn. You won’t believe how I made so many of them sprout! I’ve counted them! There are over two thousand of them!” But that is exactly what the Church does after it broadcasts the seeds of God’s Word and it sprouts.
Lord, please forgive us for taking the glory to ourselves for what You alone have done.