1At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
2Jesus invited a little child to stand among them. 3“Truly I tell you,” He said, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5And whoever welcomes a little child like this in My name welcomes Me.
6But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
7Woe to the world for the causes of sin. These stumbling blocks must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!
8If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than to have two hands and two feet and be thrown into the eternal fire. 9And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
10See that you do not look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of My Father in heaven.
The bottom line is humility. The Kingdom of God is built on humility. Seeing the godly in everything even that which we fail to see the good in, that which does not serve us, but demands of us.
Common Jewish thought and sadly modern Christian thought has Jesus as a Saviour of the elect few that are obedient to Him and uphold his Moral code. God is a God of the righteous. In Patriarchal society, the well to do are superior to everyone else, and in fact everyone else is there to serve the rich and powerful. Children are to be seen and not heard was the great Victorian era view of Children. Possessions to be paraded about and what would be left to them as an inheritance was more important than how they would be treated. It seems the more things change the more things stay the same. The constant cry of children over the millennia is that they will be loved and cared for and be given a sense of worth deeper than the inheritance that they will receive.
Children according to the scriptures, are to be treasured. But this scripture uses the imagery of children to speak of the young believer too. Young believers are to be cared for and nurtured and protected. If we do things to break them down in their immaturity, we will be held accountable for this. This is a major challenge to us, how we treat the weak, and the insecure and the seekers and the new Christians who are not yet convinced of their faith, is a critical part of our Christian witness.
Again, here in this text Jesus refers to the fact that how we treat others is how we treat him. If we love God, we are to love that which he created. We are to love not only those who meet our approval but those who we see (in our flesh) as inferior. How we treat others is how we treat Christ. Mother Terresa famously said that she looks for the Christ in everyone and keeps looking until he is found in them.
How different our world would be if we saw others as created in the image of God and in the process of becoming Christ like themselves and so looked for Jesus in them. If we treated others as we would treat Jesus. The Pharisees and the Scribes and Christians ever since were happy to see God in the “law-abiding” obviously pious people but would not recognise Him in the “Sinner.” But Jesus reached out to the “sinner” here he says they will go to heaven while those who failed to love them will end up in the fires of Gehenna.
In vs 8 and 9 Matthew uses a form of exaggeration to make his point. The Jews believed that if someone had lost a limb or an eye, or had any physical defects they were cursed by God and had these injuries as a result of sin. Jesus says “ you have got it wrong what’s the point of looking good yourself, being perfect in your own eyes, if you are causing others to suffer neglect, hopelessness, despair.’ Again, Jesus highlights that how we treat others is how we treat him. We are to “See to it that we do not look down on anyone, for their angels are in contact with God.” In one way Scripture is saying here, the messengers of God are constantly reporting back to God about how people are being treated. A slight on those who believe that their prayers were being heard because of their righteousness – Children have an angel watching over them and keeping God informed about how it’s going. I have three Children and have seen on more than one occasion evidence that they are watched over by angels. The concept of guardian angels is one that I have witnessed and experienced. And I thank God for that.
So, learn from this Gospel today, that God has his eye on everyone, and he cares for those who the world has turned their back on, and that he expects us to reach out and show compassion and treat with dignity and respect all that he has created.
let us pray
Lord God of Hosts you create the angels to worship and serve you: grant that as they inspire us in our worship, they may also strengthen us in our fight against evil; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen