Children are many things. They are cute and innocent, at least to a certain extent. They are affectionate and tender-hearted. But one thing children are not is accomplished. Generally speaking, little children aren’t good at things. They don’t have wisdom or talents. They don’t have strength or abilities. They are spectators at life, not doers. And because of this, when they receive food and protection and affection from their fathers, they recognize that this isn’t because they’ve done anything to deserve this. Even if little children don’t understand the word “grace,” they recognize that fathers pour out their love and mercy because of their gracious hearts alone.
And so, when Jesus hears His disciples arguing about which of them is going to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and when He responds by telling them they must become like little children in order to enter paradise, Jesus is saying to them “you are not saved by your works and you cannot inherit eternal life if you think you are. So if you want to live forever, think like a child. Recognize that you have no accomplishments. You have nothing to offer God. You have done nothing to merit the gifts He gives you freely. Don’t try to achieve. Receive.”
Now, these words of Jesus are a harsh rebuke to the proud and the accomplished of this world, but they are wonderfully sweet to the little children of God, both those who are little children in the physical sense and little children in a spiritual sense.
So when you are unaccomplished, remember that you are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. If you are too unintelligent to preach, if you are too inarticulate to explain your faith well, you are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. If you are too broken down to fix the problems of your family and friends, you are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. If you are too poor to support your congregation, if you suck money out of your church instead of giving money to it, you are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. If you are an embarrassment, if you have covered yourself in the filth of sin and can’t mutter any words other than “Lord, wash me clean,” you are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
And you are the greatest because you have been covered in the greatness of Christ. You are the little one most worthy of your Father’s salvation because He declared you worthy when His only begotten Son died for your sins and rose for your justification. You are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven because your Father wanted to shower you with His love, His mercy, His salvation, His kingdom. And He has.