Matthew 18:3 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Matthew 18:3, NIV: "And he said: 'Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

Matthew 18:3, ESV: "and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

Matthew 18:3, KJV: "And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."

Matthew 18:3, NASB: "and said, 'Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven."

Matthew 18:3, NLT: "Then he said, 'I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven."

Matthew 18:3, CSB: ""Truly I tell you," he said, "unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

What does Matthew 18:3 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

It may be impossible for modern readers to understand how truly shocking Jesus' statement in this and the following verse is. Little children had no status in the very status-conscious culture of the Jewish, Greek, and Roman worlds of this day. Children may be loved and valued and dearly cared for, but they had no say in the choices that impacted their lives. Compared to adults of any age, children were powerless.

The disciples had asked Jesus a question that came from their own disputes about who among them was the greatest. They wanted to know who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus begins by telling them that they need to "turn" to become like children or they would not even enter the kingdom of heaven.

In other words, entrance into heaven's kingdom cannot be gained by defeating all opponents or demonstrating personal accomplishment. Those who would enter must make themselves humble by recognizing that, like little children, they are powerless over the circumstances of their own lives. They are completely dependent on God to provide for them what they need and to protect them from harm. Only with that kind of honest humility and dependence on God can anyone come into His kingdom.

Jesus is not pointing to children as the ideal of maturity. He is not suggesting that they are sinless or innocent or noble, necessarily, only that they are without hope of providing for themselves and making themselves great. They understand that they are dependent. The disciples had not yet reached that level of humility in relationship to faith in Christ and their total dependence on Him to work through them to accomplish what was needed.