Matthew 18:10-14

“Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.” Matthew 18:10-14

Imagine if you were there that day. You see Jesus, a child sitting on his lap, surrounded by his disciples, as he speaks these words. Remember also that the question still hanging in the air is the question that the disciples asked in verse 1, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” How would you feel? What would you think? What would you see in the faces of the disciples? I would feel a bit ashamed.

The disciples don’t see the irony in their initial question. They don’t realize how pathetic and pandering their question is. As important as it seems to us to know who is at the top of the ladder, who wins the championship, who gets the corner office – such thoughts are ridiculous in view of Jesus – who teaches that there aren’t ladders, that playing the right way is more important than winning, and that every corner in creation is equally precious.

Jesus is holding a child. Do the disciples recognize how important that child is, or are they impatient, waiting for Jesus to let the child go off to play so they can get back to their adult, uber important, theologizing and philosophizing?

I don’t spend much time thinking about guardian angels – but this is one of the Bible verses that gives rise to the notion that everyone has an angel on their side, putting in a good word for them with God. Is that a childish notion? A silly idea quickly dismissed by our modern thinking? Or does such an idea change the game for us? What if we really took the idea seriously? How might it affect decisions we make regarding children if we begin with the idea that every child is infinitely valuable, with a direct pipeline to God, even if they don’t help pay the bills and are too young to vote?

We’ve all heard the one about the shepherd leaving the 99 sheep to go seek the one who was lost. But have we ever put it in this context? It brings a new meaning to the concept of “no child left behind”, doesn’t it?

Will this be good for children? From families to future generations, from congregational life to public policy, from schools to social conditions, this is a vital question, a matter of faith, that should be moved to a question of highest priority. Do you think Jesus would agree with that?

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, like your disciples we can get so caught up in our own lives, in our own sense of what matters, that we forget the implications of our lives on the children entrusted to our care. We forget to ask what is good for children. To their peril and our own. Cement in our minds the image of you holding a child in our midst and let that image influence the choices and decisions we make. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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One Response to “Matthew 18:10-14”

  1. Sharon Says:

    This was so insightful. The last 2 paragraphs and the prayer give an important perspective on all that we do. Thank you so much. Blessings to you and your family. Gratefully, Sharon

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