Thursday of Trinity 19 – Matthew 18:1-14

| October 29, 2014 | 0 Comments More

Jesus and ChildrenMatthew 18:1-14

See what concern Jesus has for little ones in Matthew 18!

“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me” (verses 3-5).

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (verse 6).

“Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven” (verse 11).

“Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (verse 14).

First, a word to parents: your children, while they are still in your household, are the little ones that Jesus is talking about.  Your obligation, as a Christian to whom Jesus Himself has entrusted these little ones, is to make them disciples of Jesus Christ.  Your main way of showing your love for God and love for neighbor, after showing this love to your spouse first, is to serve your children by lovingly discipling them in the life and way of Jesus Christ.

But when you divorce or pick spouses who you know will not devote themselves to this task, you are not shepherding these little ones.  When your work or social life or leisure become more important than your children, then you are leading these little ones astray.  Remember: the angels of your children, on behalf of your Christian children, always see the face of God – and so must you!

Guard the children in your life!

But the little ones to whom Jesus refers are not only the children among us: all of us are little ones.  We are all to become as these little children, remember?  And so we are all little ones: there is only one who is truly great among us, and He came to serve, not to be served.

Once we broaden the category of “little ones” to be all the people in our life, our lives suddenly become much more complicated, but also exciting and glorious.  We don’t have to look far to find these little ones in our lives, even if our lives aren’t filled with children as mine is.  Everyone in your life is a little one, and therefore everyone is to be served in the way that Jesus commands.

Now it’s obviously not possible to serve deeply everyone who comes into your life.  But I think we’re all smart enough to figure out who some of these little ones are.  Here’s a way to deal with this commandment to love the little ones in our lives, even when we can’t always readily identify them.  Make it your ambition to serve everyone who comes into your life in the ways that Jesus commands.

First, make sure that you’re not leading others into sin by your words or actions or example.  This is most obviously the case with children, but it’s amazing how much our sense of right and wrong is governed by the examples of those around us.  The closer you are to someone, the more your example will lead him.  Every object in the universe exerts a gravitational pull on every other object.  Sometimes these gravitational pulls are insignificant: a dust mite on planet Earth doesn’t attract a speck in space very much, and I don’t have much to do with the 1.3 billion Chinese people on Earth.  But the larger and closer an object is, the more it exerts a gravitational pull on those around it.  The sun is large and has many objects orbiting it.  The size and proximity of a parent to a child exerts a vast gravitational pull, but so do adults who are close to each other.  Don’t lead others into temptation.

Second, do not despise the little ones in your life.  Here’s where we might focus the “little ones” to mean those who are poor in spirit.  Don’t despise those who are a little different or don’t fit in.  I observed once at a church camp a boy who didn’t fit into the larger group very well.  He was kind of obnoxious and immature; he wasn’t into the same things as everyone else; and he wasn’t always very nice.  But he had a lot of fine qualities that were overlooked.  The other kids, by degrees, day by day, pushed him away further and further.  It was really sort of brutal.

Of course, we adults would never marginalize anyone or look down on them because they’re different!

Third, and this is the part that strikes me most, go after the little ones who have gone astray.  There are a lot of wandering sheep in the Good Shepherd’s flock: some of you may have been one of them, and some of you may still be one of them.  These are the little ones we are to especially seek out.  No one decides to leave the Good Shepherd’s flock in an instant.  First, there is the little misstep that’s not corrected.  Then there’s the bolder step away from the Shepherd.  Only after a considerable period of wandering away is one of His sheep lost.

The strange thing is that often there are other sheep around who have witnessed this straying sheep but say or do nothing about it.  It is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should perish – and He’s asked you to do something about it when you see it.  For the amazing thing about the Good Shepherd is that He’s commissioned the sheep to also be shepherds, and I’m not talking only about pastors.

Most of us have opportunities every day to say something to someone who is straying or getting lost in some way, even in little ways.  How often do we look on, notice it, and then go on our merry way?

Remember: these, too, are the little ones whose angels see the face of God!  These, too, are the little ones that the Father does not wish to see perish.  So look around you today: where do you see the little ones?  What can you do today to point them back to the Great One?

Prayer: 

Grant me, O God,

            the heart of a child,

pure and transparent as a spring;

             a simple heart,

which never harbors sorrows;

a heart glorious in self-giving,

            tender in compassion;

a heart faithful and generous,

which will never forget any good

or bear a grudge for any evil.

Make me a heart gentle and humble

            loving without asking any return,

            large-hearted and undauntable,

which no ingratitude can sour

and no indifference can weary;

            a heart penetrated by the love of Jesus

            whose desire will only be satisfied in heaven.

Grant me, O Lord,

            the mind and heart

            of thy dear Son.  Amen.  (Translated from the French by George Appleton)

Points for Meditation:

  1. Who are the little ones in my life?
  2. If you are a little one, how might you seek to come closer, back to your Good Shepherd?

Resolution:  I resolve to identify one little one in my life (it might be me!) and find one way to redirect him back to the Good Shepherd. 

© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson

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Category: Give Us This Day

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