Matthew 18:4 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Matthew 18:4, NIV: "Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

Matthew 18:4, ESV: "Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

Matthew 18:4, KJV: "Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

Matthew 18:4, NASB: "'Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

Matthew 18:4, NLT: "So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven."

Matthew 18:4, CSB: "Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child--this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

What does Matthew 18:4 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

The disciples have asked Jesus a question out of their own ambition for greatness (Matthew 18:1–3). They see themselves as twelve men on the ground floor of an organization that will soon explode into a kingdom. They seem to imagine themselves occupying the most significant positions in this new kingdom Jesus will establish on the earth and it is only a question of which one among them will be the most important. They do not understand yet that Jesus has not come to set up His political kingdom (John 18:36), but to suffer and die for the sins of humanity.

Jesus now offers His first direct answer to their question, and it must have baffled them in the moment. He points to the child He has placed in the midst of their group and says that whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

What does it mean to humble oneself like a child? Jesus is not saying that children are naturally wise, pure, innocent, and mature. We all know better than that. Children are humble in the sense that they recognize they are not in control of their own lives. They are dependent on others to receive everything they need and want. They have no power not granted by the adults in their lives. They have no status in society as a whole. They are, in reality, humble, no matter their attitude on any given day.

The greatest in the kingdom, then, is the one who is most humble, most aware of his or her lack of power, most dependent on God to provide all that is needed.