The Power of Humility
How Jesus transforms our view of status in Matthew 18
By Karen McNary – BSF Director of Global Cultural Engagement and Community
I was about 10 years old when I had my eyes examined for the first time. I was able to function in school and sports activities, but slowly, and over time, my eyesight worsened. I didn’t notice my faulty vision, but my parents could see the difference.
I’ll never forget how surprised and excited I was the first time I put on my new glasses. Before glasses, I only saw a plain brown door. Now I saw a brown door with beautifully textured wood grain. Trees that looked like a large green mass became beautiful, filled with unique, individually shaped leaves. Until my eye exam and glasses, I didn’t realize how incomplete my view of the world was and how much more there was to be seen.
I needed a doctor and a diagnosis to see clearly. I needed the truth. I needed a solution.
Like a doctor diagnosing a patient, Jesus is faithful to correct our spiritual vision. For the early Church, He spoke directly to their view of others. But Jesus doesn’t simply diagnose a problem. He offers a new view.
For those who lived in the ancient near East, status was extremely important. Through the early Church’s cultural lens, social or political status determined greatness. Those associated with rank and position were revered. When disciples asked Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” in Matthew 18:1, they were seeking a path to position, focusing on the value of their status among men.
But Jesus offered a different view.
Rather than defining greatness by the standards the disciples would have expected — accomplishments, reputation, and high rank — Jesus challenged them to view status through a biblical lens.
In Matthew 18:3-4, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
This teaching is true for us today.
How we see and relate to each other must not be based on man-made systems. Instead, Jesus encourages us to view ourselves as little children.
To become childlike, as Jesus said, is to view ourselves through eternal reality. Like children, we are helpless. The depth of our disobedience strips away our man-made, earthly status, leaving us equal under the weight of sin. Wealth and position can’t cover our trespasses. But through the sacrifice of our Savior, we find hope. Through Christ alone, we become children of God. Instead of striving for status, we can simply be grateful. Through this new view, we see serving as a privilege. We are just as honored to share in His sufferings as His blessings.
Childlike humility can also be seen when we renounce any notions of self-importance. When we look through Jesus’ lens, we see no second-class citizenship based on ethnicity, no world ranking designation based on economics, nor a caste system that views some as superior based on birth. In Christ, all have the same status — daughter, son, friend, valued and greatly loved by a great God.
Seeing through Jesus’ lens leads to being other centered, not causing others to stumble, and actively seeking the good of those who are vastly different. At the foot of the One who is righteous, we should be happy to surrender our right to be right.
Humility for The World to See
What influence for Christ could we have if the unbelieving world saw diverse believers relate to each other in this way?
How can we begin to let go of our incomplete vision and put on the “glasses” of childlike humility?
- Accept entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven: Everybody enters the community in the same way — by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus. All who believe in Him have access to the Holy Spirit for guidance, wisdom, and understanding of His Word. Only in Christ can we have corrected vision. The path is narrow, but open to all.
- Allow God’s Word to examine you: How we approach God’s Word – either as a window examining others or as a mirror examining ourselves – matters. God’s Word encourages, equips, and uplifts, but it also rebukes, corrects, and trains in righteousness. We need the whole counsel of God to be conformed to His image.
- Adjust behaviors based on God’s Word: God’s Word is meant to be lived, not just learned. We can trust the power of His Spirit to help see and live in a way that magnifies Him, matures us both individually and collectively, while also setting us apart from the rest of the world.
As cultures around us continue to become more chaotic and controversial, may we see clearly as Jesus sees, through a biblical lens, and live as He did in humility, forgiveness, and graciousness to enemies as well as friends.
Director of Global Cultural Engagement and Community
Karen served as a Children’s Leader, Substitute Teaching Leader, Teaching Leader, Area Personnel and most recently as a Skills Coach for BSF prior to joining the staff in April 2021. She is originally from Louisville, Ky. and for the past 20 years has called Charlotte, NC home. She has been married to her husband, Keith, for 27 years, and together they parent three three young adult sons who attended the BSF School Program for many years.
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