Matthew 18:3 – Unless you turn and become like little children

Published On: 1 de August de 2023Categories: Bible Study

What did Jesus mean by “unless you turn and become like children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven”?

In this passage from the Gospel of Matthew, the disciples approach Jesus with an intriguing question: “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” This question reveals a quest for recognition and a competitive mindset among the disciples, who expected a hierarchical response. However, Jesus responds in a surprising way, by calling a child and placing him in their midst. Then He says, “Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

Jesus’ answer challenges the world’s mindset of grandeur and authority, showing that the Kingdom of Heaven is not governed by the same rules as the world. He emphasizes the need for conversion and a change of mindset for those who want to be part of the Kingdom of God. Being “childlike” does not refer to immaturity or naivety, but to the simplicity, humility and confidence that characterize children. It is a call to unshakable faith and dependence on God.

What does it mean to be like a child?

Being like a child involves an attitude of simplicity and trust in God, free of pretensions and self-importance. Children are naturally humble and open to learning, accepting guidance and completely dependent on their parents’ care and provision. Likewise, we must approach God with a sincere and humble heart, recognizing that we are dependent on Him in all areas of our lives.

“Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, as Christ also loved us and gave himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God, a fragrant aroma.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)

In this verse, Paul encourages Christians to imitate God as beloved children, just as children imitate and model themselves on their parents. The attitude of humility, trust and dependence mentioned in the original text can be reflected in the exhortation to walk in love, even as Christ loved us, giving himself completely as an offering and sacrifice to God. This approach reflects the simplicity and trust a child has in his parents, applied to his relationship with God.

Another characteristic of children is their genuine and uncomplicated faith. They accept the parents’ words as absolute truth, without questioning or doubting. This simple faith is an example for us, as we often become skeptical and unbelieving of God’s promises. To be like a child means to have confident, unquestioning faith in God and his promises.

What are some of the qualities of children that help us enter the kingdom of heaven?

Some qualities of children that help us to enter the Kingdom of Heaven are true spiritual treasures, essential for a deep relationship with God and a life of fullness. Humility is a virtue that puts us in our proper standing before God. Recognizing our total dependence on God reminds us that He is the source of all life and provision. Humility distances us from pride and arrogance, making room for divine grace to work in us. When we approach God in humility, we are able to receive His grace and mercy in abundance. Jesus himself taught us this essence when he said: “Blessed are the humble in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)

Unshakable confidence is another admirable trait in children, who give themselves wholeheartedly to their parents, without fear or doubt. Likewise, we need to develop a sincere trust in God, understanding that He is faithful and true in all His promises. Trusting fully in God means placing our faith and hope in Him, even when circumstances seem challenging. This deep confidence strengthens us in times of adversity and allows us to live with serenity, knowing that Heavenly Father takes care of every detail of our lives. Biblical wisdom guides us to put our trust in the Lord, as it is written in Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

Purity of heart is a spiritual treasure that brings us closer to God in an intimate and sincere way. Like children who don’t have resentment or malice in their hearts, we must pursue purity to fully experience God’s presence and love. In Psalm 51:10 , the psalmist cries out to God, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” This quest for purity does not mean perfection, but rather a genuine willingness to get rid of everything that contaminates our communion with the Father. A pure heart is capable of receiving the deep manifestations of divine love, allowing God to work in us and through us to bless those around us.

By cultivating humility, unshakable confidence and purity of heart, we approach the model of children, establishing an authentic connection with God and experiencing the true Kingdom of Heaven in our lives. These qualities, grounded in biblical teachings, lead us on a spiritual journey of continual growth and transformation, becoming more like our Heavenly Father’s loving and gracious character.

What are some of the challenges of being like a child?

While being like a child is an inspiring calling, we face challenges on our journey to live this simple and humble faith. In today’s world, it’s easy to lose the simplicity of faith due to daily distractions and worries. We live in a society that values ​​independence and pride, and these mindsets can pull us away from humility and trust in God.

Furthermore, hardness of heart can be an obstacle to becoming like children. The experiences of disappointments, traumas and pain can lead us to build emotional walls that prevent us from fully trusting God. It is essential to seek healing and release from these barriers to embrace the simplicity of childlike faith.

Another challenge is dealing with pride and the desire for recognition. As we grow up, we often struggle with the need to be noticed and praised by others. However, true greatness in the Kingdom of God is found in humility and service to others, not in seeking personal recognition. “Whoever therefore humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:4)

How can we become more childlike in our relationship with God and each other?

To become more childlike in our relationship with God and each other, it is important to recognize our need for change and sincerely pursue a life of humility and trust. Some spiritual practices that can help us include:

Constant Prayer: Cultivating a life of prayer, talking to God regularly as a son talks to his father, expressing gratitude, asking for guidance and sharing our concerns. “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Reading the Word of God: Immersion in the Scriptures, seeking to understand and apply its teachings in our daily lives. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)

Repentance and Forgiveness: Acknowledging our mistakes and shortcomings, sincerely repenting and forgiving those who have offended us, just as a child is ready to forgive and forget misunderstandings. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Selfless service: Seeking to serve others without expecting anything in return, reflecting the humility and love we find in Christ. “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

We can learn from children to have faith, trust and dependence on God.

Faith is a central theme in Christian life, and children teach us to embrace faith with a simple and genuine attitude. Jesus said in Matthew 18:3 that we must convert and become like little children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The children’s faith is a powerful example for us as they accept God’s promises and believe in Him with unshakable confidence. “Truly I say to you, unless you convert and become like children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

When a child is taught about the existence of God and His love, he accepts it wholeheartedly, without question. Likewise, we as adults need to learn to trust God completely, even when we face challenges and uncertainty. 

Children also teach us about dependence on God. They don’t hesitate to seek help from their parents when they face problems or have needs. Your dependence is natural and innate. In contrast, as adults we often struggle to depend on God in all areas of our lives. We are tempted to depend on our own abilities and resources instead of trusting in divine power and provision. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17)

The faith, trust, and dependence of children remind us that we are like children before God. As a father cares for his children, God cares for us with unconditional love and infinite providence. Learning from children, we can grow in our faith, seeking a deeper connection with God and resting in his grace and care.

We can learn from children to be humble, forgiving, and compassionate.

Jesus valued humility and a forgiving heart, and children have much to teach us about these qualities. Humility is a characteristic of a child, as they don’t see themselves as superior or more important than others. They are not concerned with proving their greatness or social status, but simply living their lives with authenticity and sincerity.

In Matthew 18:4, Jesus goes on to teach his disciples about the importance of humility, saying, “Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” He shows that true greatness in the Kingdom of God is achieved through humility, not through power or the pursuit of status.

Another lesson we can learn from children is forgiveness. Children are quick to forgive and forget disagreements. They don’t carry rancor or bitterness, but are capable of genuinely releasing forgiveness. In Matthew 18:21-22 , Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive someone who offends him, suggesting seven times. Jesus answers: “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” This illustrates the unlimited forgiveness God expects of us, just as children forgive easily. “Rather, be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

In addition, children are also naturally compassionate. When they see someone sad or in difficulty, they often empathize and try to help. Compassion is a quality that Jesus valued and practiced, as we see in several passages of Scripture. By learning from children, we can cultivate an attitude of humility, forgiveness, and compassion in our relationships with others, reflecting the character of Christ in our lives. “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering.” (Colossians 3:12)

We can learn from children to have joy and hope.

Children are often associated with joy and hope. Your perspective on life is full of innocence and optimism, even in the face of challenges. Children’s joy is rooted in the simplicity of the present moment. They can find joy in the little things in life, whether it’s playing, discovering something new, or simply being with the people they love. Jesus valued this unassuming joy, and He Himself said in Matthew 18:3 that we must become like little children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

By learning from children, we can rediscover the simple, genuine joy that comes from living a life of faith and trust in God. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.” Philippians 4:4) The joy that comes from a life in communion with God transcends circumstances and empowers us to face life’s challenges with hope and gratitude.

Another valuable lesson we can learn from children is hope. Children have a natural ability to dream and hope for good things in the future. Their minds are not burdened with skepticism or anxiety about the future. In Matthew 18:10 , Jesus talks about the importance of not despising a child, for “Take care not to despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father.” It reminds us that children have a special place in God’s heart and their hope and faith are precious to Him. “For I know the plans that I have for you, says the Lord; plans of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

The children’s hope is an inspiring example for us, especially when we face difficult and challenging times. By learning from them, we can learn to maintain a hopeful perspective, trusting that God is in control and has a plan for our lives. “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man carrying out evil designs.” (Psalm 37:7)

We can learn from children to be open to new experiences.

Children have an innate curiosity and a willingness to explore the world around them. They are not afraid to try new things and are always open to new experiences. Jesus emphasized the importance of being like children in this regard too, being open and receptive to the Kingdom of God.

This willingness to try new things also applies to our spiritual walk. As we grow in our faith, God takes us to new levels of revelation and understanding of His Word. We need to be willing to step out of our comfort zone and embrace these new truths with humility and enthusiasm. “When I was a boy, I spoke like a boy, I thought like a boy and I reasoned like a boy. When I became a man, I left boyish things behind.” (1 Corinthians 13:11)

Furthermore, being open to new experiences also allows us to grow in our relationships with others. Sometimes we become closed to new friendships or meaningful interactions with those who are different from us. However, as Christians, we are called to love and serve everyone, regardless of their backgrounds or beliefs. By learning from children, we can develop a warm and welcoming heart for others, seeking to make meaningful connections and promote unity in the body of Christ. “Love your enemies therefore, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High.” (Luke 6:35)

We can learn from children to have a pure heart.

Children are known for their innocence and purity of heart. They don’t carry the emotional baggage and worries that adults often do. Jesus valued such purity of heart. Having a pure heart means living according to moral and ethical principles, seeking a life free of hurts, resentments and selfishness. In Matthew 5:8 , Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” This shows us that purity of heart is essential to experiencing deeper fellowship with God. “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

One of the reasons children have pure hearts is because they tend to forgive easily and don’t hold grudges. They are not contaminated by feelings of revenge or bitterness. As adults, we can learn from children to release forgiveness and seek reconciliation with those who have wronged us. This will allow us to experience the freedom and peace that come from genuine forgiveness. “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go first be reconciled with your brother; and then, returning, present your offering.” (Matthew 5:23-24)

Furthermore, a pure heart is open to God’s guidance and correction. When we have a pure heart, we sincerely seek God’s will in our lives and are willing to set aside our own wants and desires to follow the path He has laid out for us. “Lead me in the path of Your commandments, for in it I delight.” (Psalm 119:35)

Purity of heart is also reflected in our thinking and speech. Children often speak sincerely and have no ulterior motives in their words. Learning from them, we can develop uplifting and genuine language, avoiding gossip, offensive and misleading words. “Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is good for the necessary edification, so that it may minister grace to those who hear it.” (Ephesians 4:29)

In summary, by learning from children to have faith, trust and dependence on God, to be humble, forgiving and compassionate, to have joy and hope, to be open to new experiences and to have a pure heart, we are empowered to live a deeper and more meaningful life in the Kingdom of God. These children’s lessons not only bring us closer to God, but also enrich our relationships with one another and help us grow as disciples of Christ.

May we strive to embrace the simplicity of childlike faith in our Christian journey, recognizing that we are loved and accepted as children of God. May we learn to trust and depend completely on Him, seeking His will in all that we do. And that, inspired by the children, we can cultivate a pure and compassionate heart, willing to forgive and love one another, just as Christ loved us.

May these children’s lessons transform our lives and enable us to live full and meaningful lives in the Kingdom of God. May the simplicity of faith always remind us of the greatness of God’s love for us and inspire us to live in intimate communion with Him, enjoying the joy and hope that only He can give us. May we be true followers of Christ, reflecting His light and love to the world around us.

In conclusion, the study of Matthew 18:1-3 and the children’s lessons inspire us to grow in our faith and to live a life of devotion and love for God and neighbor. May each day bring us closer to the heart of God, seeking to be like children in his presence, living with humility, trust and joy in our walk with Christ. Amen.

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Written by : Ministério Veredas Do IDE

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