Matthew 18:1-14


“At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?  And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, 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.  Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same shall be greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.  But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.  Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!  Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee:  it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.  And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee:  it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.  Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.  For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.  How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?  And if so be that he findeth it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.  Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.”


Matthew 18, Part 1: “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?


The natural heart of man seeks to be “recognized”


Chapter 18, verses 1-5, “At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’  Then Jesus called a little child to him, set him in the midst of them, and said, ‘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.”  Now we don’t have it here, but in the parallel versions in the other Gospels, Mark being one of them, chapter 9, we learn that they are in the house there in Capernaum, so it’s very possible it’s Peter’s house.  And these guys have been disputing and arguing, and they’ve been disputing over the fact, ‘Who is the greatest?’  So we insert that here before verse 1, these guys are arguing.  We learned in Luke, chapter 9, the parallel version, that then Jesus discerns that these guys are arguing, and he discerns their hearts.  So he then asks them, he says to them, you know, ‘What are you guys arguing about?’  And that’s where we get verse 1 now, where the disciples say ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’  Initially they’re silent, he’s kind of calling them on the carpet, and then they come and they say ‘Well, whose the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’  Now maybe this little dispute arose because the three of them, Peter, James and John, they’ve been a privileged group, they’ve seen amazing things [the transfiguration], and maybe that has part to do with it.  These guys are talking about their experiences, so with that, you know, thinking about the Messianic Kingdom, ‘Hey, whose going to be the greatest?  You know, you guys were just up there, you had that special time with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration.’  Of course, they didn’t share the details, they were told not to.  But these guys have been pulled aside with Jesus, maybe it started the whole debate.  Maybe Peter, Peter, this man has walked on water.  This man has, you know, Jesus has told him, ‘You’re the rock [actually, Hebrew, small stone, pebble].’  He was up on the mount too, alone with Jesus and James and John.  And then at the end of chapter 17, you remember, this guy goes fishing, and God miraculously through it pays this Temple tax.  So maybe he’s been talking about his experiences, and rubbing it in, I don’t know.  But they’re debating about who is the greatest.  And now Jesus is going to show them, he’s going to flip things around.  They have a certain perspective, the human perspective of life, and he is now going to show them in a very illustrative way that will just go into their hearts and minds.  And it’s very possible, I think it’s possible they don’t understand what he’s even going to depict to them, because they continue to debate this even later.  In fact, in the last hours there with Christ, before he’s crucified, don’t you know they’re debating about whose going to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  So it doesn’t seem like they fully appreciated what he’s going to illustrate right here.  But he gives them a picture, gives you and I a picture too.  And this picture I’m sure is there in their minds after the cross, in just the depth and reality.  Because they see, of course, they have another picture of what he does on the cross, to show the same heart of what he’s talking about.  So then they have a greater appreciation of what he’s going to depict to them here.  It’s the heart of man, it’s your heart, my heart I’m sure, to want to be recognized, to want to be seen in a certain way of privilege and position.  A little while ago I was invited to a leaders meeting in Boston, and because of the guy who invited me, I guess, but being introduced to other people, I, ah, ‘Let me introduce you to a mighty man of God, Steve xxxxxx.’  You know it had a nice ring to it, I like that, you know [laughter].  Another time, it was ‘From a scale from one to ten, this guy’s a ten…’  I like that, that’s [laughter].  There is something about us where we like that.  And sometimes we seek it, we look for it.  Well Jesus wants to share with us what true greatness really is.  And so you know the culture we live in, the Who’s Who, we want to be in the Who’s Who book.  I mean, how many times have I gotten a little book or a little letter, ‘Hey, you can be in Who’s Who’ or whatever.  I remember getting them in high school, thinking ‘Wow! They spotted me, you know, they found me.’  And then in college I got one, and then in engineering, and even now as a pastor, believe it or not, in the church, these things come in the mail, ‘Who’s Who, you can be in this list of thousands of pages that nobody will ever notice, so pay your $100.’  But we want that.  We desire that.  And it’s because of that too, we like titles, we like the honorary whatever, we like The Most Revered, the Director of this, it might be the crosswalk guard on Monday morning there in front of the school, The Director, give me the title, you know.  [That’s why for the life of my I can’t figure out why the people that are supposed to be ordinary pastors, always take the title of Reverend, when Jesus taught against taking titles to oneself.  It’s wrong, and unBiblical.  But it gets worse than that, they also want to be the Big Cheese, lauding it over everyone underneath them.  Hierarchal systems of ‘church government’ foster this wrong attitude.]  Or the Most Valuable, we like the trophies on our shelf, and the certificates on our wall.  That’s man’s world and that’s man’s way.  And Jesus is about to show these guys, it’s so different in the Kingdom of God, and what true greatness is, it’s very, very different.  Expecting maybe to hear their names mentioned, maybe Peter or James or John, and I would just think the heart of man, we’re expecting, ‘OK Jesus, say Peter, but you’re going to say George too, obviously, whose the greatest.’ 


The attitude of greatness


But what he does, he goes beyond that.  We learned in Mark chapter 9, verse 35, before he actually brings this child before him, he says, “If anyone desires to be first, he needs to be last of all and servant of all.”  As they’re chewing on that, then to illustrate it, he calls this child to him.  And the child comes, stands before him.  We learn then in Luke, I like the different details, but then Jesus actually picks up this child, so it’s not a teenager, it’s not a big child.  My son now is 9 and he’s getting to that point where he’s hard to pick up.  I have little girls, and up to this point I always carry them up to bed just about all the time.  It’s at that point now, he’s 75, 80 lbs., I’d just as soon not do it.  Ok?  ‘You walk the stairs, I’ll take the girls.’  We go through this little thing, he wants me to carry him.  ‘Hey, dude, you’re like a bag of cement, man, 75 lbs, I’m not in shape, it’s not easy, it’s no fun.’  So this is a little one, this is a little child.  And he picks up the little child, and he has him in his arm, and he begins to share the truths that he’s about to.  It’s the attitude, it’s the faith, it’s the heart of true greatness that he then depicts before them.  Now, understand too, a child in Jewish society, our culture isn’t quite the same, but a child in Jewish society was, really, they were important, they were a blessing.  From the Proverbs, if you had a child, you were blessed, if you had many children you were blessed.  They were important in that sense, as a gift to you.  But they were not seen as important people in other ways.  You know, you wouldn’t care too much about their opinions or their advice, or their desires.  They were to be completely subject to their elders.  They weren’t given significant responsibility.  They were seen as insignificant in one way, a gift, but you know, you’re a child.  That’s the way they were viewed in Jewish society, and you didn’t look up to them, you looked out for them.  Now in our culture, we’re getting a little weird sometimes with things.  And you have a lot of stress placed on opinions and advice from kids that aren’t necessarily, in our society we’re getting a little bit topsy-turvy about what is wise and what isn’t, what is proper leadership and things like that.  But in the Jewish culture, and it’s important to understand what they’re thinking, these men as this child is brought here, here’s somebody whose insignificant as far as position, as far as status, this child would be about as insignificant as you could be.  So holding this child he starts with the attitude of true greatness.  He says, ‘If you want to be great, then you need to become like this child, that’s greatness.’  Now that’s something that they’re going to need to absorb.  And they’re probably not going to get it, as I said, until later.  But he says, ‘If you’re going to be great, you need to become as a little child.’  Now there’s debate as to what this means, there’s mainly two different interpretations.  When he says what he does in verse 4, that you need to humble yourself, and become as this little child, that’s to be great in the kingdom of heaven.  There are different interpretations as to what he means, and I think the two main interpretations, they’re a little different, but they arrive at the same point.  When he speaks about humbling yourself as a child, one interpretation is that, you know, a child, a young child has this state of humility.  They’re not ones who desire position or status, and so they have that sense of humility.  And so you need to take on that characteristic of a child.  That’s one interpretation.  Well I’m not sure, it could be it.  But at the same time I know in my house, our kids, I hear so often, especially with the little ones, ‘Me first, me first.’  That’s like one of the best lines, ‘Me first.’  So saying a child doesn’t seek prominence, my kids are going all the time ‘Me first!’ and they’re arguing who’ll be first.  So, I don’t know if that’s necessarily it.  But the point is, the humility, in the end result, is the interpretation.  The other interpretation ends up at the some point, and that is, that he’s bringing somebody of low status, of low position, and saying, ‘You need to be willing to be of low status, low position, being ready in your heart to take whatever place, to humble yourself, and to not be concerned about that, to take the low position, in whatever, not caring about recognition or importance.  But doing that because God would have you take that place.  And again, that’s a statement of humility.  And that is the heart ultimately of what is here, is that of humility.  The word for “humble” in verse 4 appears in Philippians chapter 2, and that is what Jesus did, and so it’s the same picture.  Philippians chapter 2, verse 5, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God [he was actually Yahweh in OT times], did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men, and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself”---same word---“and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”  So, you need to, status, low position, those that are great, the heart of greatness is, ‘I take that position, no problem.  I take that status, no problem.’  Very different from what the world reasons.  Luke chapter 9, it’s phrased this way, where Jesus speaks at this point, he says “For who is least among you will be great.”  So taking that place of being in the least position.  And having the heart, the point is, the attitude.  That is greatness in the kingdom of heaven.  Now the Greek word for humble is the word tapeneo, and it means to make low.  Or literally you take a mountain and you make it a valley, you make it low, to make it a plain.  Therefore the thought is to humble yourself, is to think lowly of ourselves, but not necessarily that we think we are lowly, but I think lowly of myself in the sense I don’t think much of myself.  I think about God and I think about others.  So I don’t really focus too much on my life, I think lowly of myself, I don’t really think about myself too much.  Now that’s true humility.  There are different extremes of what people interpret to be humility.  One is thinking so less of yourself, and that’s not necessarily true humility.  Moses, God comes to Moses and says, ‘Moses, I have a call upon your life’, and Moses says ‘Oh, I can’t do that.’  God gets angry.  That’s not humility.  And the other extreme is thinking more of yourself, going to the other extreme, thinking too much of yourself, and obviously that’s not the heart of what he’s taking about here.  Romans chapter 12, verse 3, Paul says, “For I say through the grace given to me, to every one who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”  Turn to Psalm 131, you know, David is a man that we would say is a great man.  In all the world, this man stands out with greatness.  Disciples, ‘Whose great in the kingdom of God?’, listen to the heart of David as he pens this song.  Now I don’t think I would ever write such a little psalm or say these sorts of words.  Some of the words he says here I can’t imagine saying.  But there’s a real heart of greatness there in this sense of attitude.  “LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty, neither do I concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me.  Surely I’ve calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.  Oh Israel hope in the LORD, from this time forth and forever.”  Now I don’t know if I could ever, “I’m like a weaned child, LORD” just before you right now.  You know, that’s an interesting description.  But there is this sense of attitude, lowly, but yet greatness, not concerned about myself, LORD, not concerned about anything, I’m just concerned about you and focused upon you.  You know an example of this to me too is Jimmy Carter, now I don’t know Jimmy Carter, and maybe you know of things that would say otherwise.  But this man was the President of the United States, he was in such a position of power and of just notoriety of being famous and having influence, the President of the United States, it doesn’t go a whole lot higher than that in the world.  But you hear reports, I’ve heard reports of the secret service men that travel with him, their frustration that they have in traveling with him, I mean, they’d prefer Bill Clinton or George Senior, not Jimmy Carter, ‘I got duty with Jimmy Carter!?’  Reason being is the man often is doing social service and ministry or whatever, so they’re with him, and they’re sleeping in church basements on the floor, and just a life that they don’t want to live, but this is Jimmy Carter, ‘and we’ve got secret service with Jimmy Carter, so here we go, another church basement.’  Whereas you know, Bill Clinton, I would imagine, you’re in a pretty swank hotel, and having not meatloaf and macaroni and cheese in the church, you’re having the nice stuff when you’re hanging out with George Senior or whatever.  And that’s the kind of attitude that Jimmy seems  to have, he just wants to be a blessing and serve people and make a difference in their lives.  That’s greatness, indeed, no doubt about it, the attitude of greatness. 


The faith of greatness


Now he [Jesus] not only illustrates the attitude of greatness, but also as he goes on, he’s going to show the faith of true greatness, as he says in verse 3, “I say to you unless you are converted”---the word is “changed” maybe in your translations, same thing---“unless you are converted and become as a little child”, unless you are turned around in your thinking.  That’s a statement of repentance, that you have a change in your mind, and you become as a little child, “then you’ll by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”  So, what is he saying there?  Well, he’s speaking obviously of faith.  And it is true about a child, there is that child-like faith, we call it, where they trust, very naturally.  And they just want to be with mom and dad. And what dad says, that’s the ticket, and dad’s really cool, and what he says is it, and what mom says, there’s that trust. [I hate to use this example, because it’s personal.  I don’t even remember it.  But my mother tells me about one time when I was a little toddler, was upstairs, and my father came home from work.  I went running, jumping off the top stair and flew into the air toward him.  Luckily he caught me.  In my mind, I knew he would.  I must have had a lot of trust, faith in him, I don’t know, as I can’t remember the incident myself.  But my mother does, says I surprised the daylights out of my dad.]  And so he says, ‘unless you have a change in mind, and you become like that, in fact, he says, you’re not going to even enter the kingdom of heaven.  That’s the ticket through the gate, that type of faith, you’ll never get in without that type of faith.  So, greatness, we see of greatness we see the faith of true greatness.  It’s that absolute trust and dependence, that whatever God says, whatever the Lord says, I just trust, it is true, I rest, I depend.  That is greatness.  A child has that type of faith.  I remember one of my youngest memories, growing up, we lived for a couple years, two years I think in New Mexico, Cannon Air Force Base, I remember, one of the youngest memories I have, as I’m looking out the back door, into our yard, and there’s the sliding door and the glass.  And I’m looking up in the air, and the reason why, my dad had just told me, got up in the morning, and he says “A helicopter just landed in the back yard Steve, and Santa got up, and dropped those presents right here under that tree.”  And I’m like, ‘No way.’  So I’m sitting there, little guy, looking out the door going, you know, looking for that red helicopter, Santa’s flying around in a helicopter, can’t believe it.’  Now I’m not saying that’s a good parenting technique [laughter], and whatever your opinions about Santa Claus I’ll leave it with you, obviously it’s not true.  But the point is, that’s a child’s faith, right, I have that memory, I just believed whatever my dad said.  And you know, sometimes as dads, we kind of torture our kids, ‘There’s a monster under your bed’, you know, there’s a three-year-old, ‘Whaaa!’  and they believe you.  I remember we were at a beach once, and our two older ones were really little, and it was the crashing waves and water, and you’re a little nervous about the water.  But they’re going to go in the water, and I told them, and there’s two of them and only one of me, so I said ‘Listen guys’, I said, ‘There’s sharks out there,’ [loud laughter] ‘and they’ll eat you, I’m telling you, they’ll just gobble you up.’  It worked, they just stayed right there at the edge of the water, no problem [chuckles].  Now they’re trying to get over that fear of water, that [loud laughter].  And I’m not saying that’s a good technique as a father either, but.  The point is, child-like faith.  They just trust and believe.  And that’s true greatness, when you have that kind of faith in the Lord, in Christ, in God.  When we, no matter whatever season we’re in, in our life, whatever’s going on in our life, when we can say ‘Well this is what you said to me, you’ve made this promise, and this is my future with you, you said, and you do love me, and all things will work together for the good.  I trust you Lord.  Man, that’s scary looking down the road, I don’t get it at all, I’m confused, but you say that Lord, I trust you Lord.’  And when you have that faith, you have peace.  And that is greatness---isn’t it?  That is greatness, when you can be in any season of your life, and have the faith of greatness that says “I trust you Lord, you said it, I just believe it, and I accept it.”   So, he depicts to them with this child, the attitude and the faith of greatness.  Now in society that is so hard for us, it is so hard for us to even yet humble ourselves and to open our hearts and minds towards the Lord in that way and to just have that faith and dependence and trust.  That’s very hard, and for people in general, in the world, you know, ‘The Gospel, the Word of God, you know, I’m too sophisticated, I know too much, been around, too intelligent, too important, I mean, the Gospel and the Word of God, not for me man, sorry.’  And so it’s hard for us.  And so he says, ‘Unless you have that child-like faith, you can’t even enter the Kingdom of God.  If you’re here today, and you don’t have Christ in your heart as Lord and Savior, the Bible makes it very clear, that without Christ in my heart as my Savior and my Lord, I will not see the Kingdom of God.  If you’re not born-again, the Bible says you will not go to heaven. That is the teaching of the Word, and to not go to heaven is to go to hell. [Comment: The passage actually says you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.  For those who really know their Bibles, the kingdom of heaven comes to earth at the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ, which is one and the same as the Kingdom of God.  In the Gospel of Matthew the term “kingdom of heaven” is almost exclusively used.  In the other Gospels the term “kingdom of God” is almost exclusively used.  The terms thus are interchangeable, and do not necessarily mean ‘going to heaven.’  Within the Body of Christ there are various teachings about heaven and hell.  To see the various interpretations, log onto:]  That’s what the Word teaches.  And if you’re here today, what God is saying to you, is to come to Christ.  And that may be a struggle for some of us.  You may be big in the business world, you may be the tops in the university, you may have a real high IQ.  But what is needed is faith.  ‘Without faith it’s impossible to please God.  For he who comes to God must believe that he is, and that he’s a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.’  You know, we, as a society in general, don’t want the Gospel, we don’t want that.  But then we go and develop theories like evolution, which is incredibly foolish to say that life came from nothing---that long ago you had ancestors that were just little spores in a pond.  That’s really, really foolish.  It’s not even scientific to say that at all.  So, true greatness, the attitude, the faith.  [And God does not expect blind faith either.  Evolution can be disproved.  See  And God’s Word, the Bible can be proved to be true, beyond a shadow of a doubt.  See


The heart of greatness


Verse, 6-9, “For whoever causes one of these little ones who believes in me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depths of the sea.  Woe to the world because of offenses!  For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!  If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you.  It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire.  And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you.  It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.”  So now he shares, you’ve got the attitude of greatness, you’ve got the faith of greatness, and now you have the heart of greatness.  Here he’ll now show us four different aspects of the real heart of true greatness. 


The heart of true greatness gives honor to the least significant---the child


The heart of true greatness, where there’s the heart of true greatness you have the situation where the least are being given great importance, the least, the least significant, the little ones.  When you have the heart of greatness, man, they [the little ones] are given importance.  Look back at verse 5, “Whoever receives one little child like this in my name receives me.”  And so Jesus says there, he says his heart toward a child is such.  That when I receive, when I welcome a child, he wants me to understand that when I do that, I’m actually welcoming and receiving him.  And then that tells me that his heart is such towards the child, that he wants to be in my eyes so equated with that child, so aligned with that child, he wants me to understand that he’s so close to that child, that child is part of his special team and group and club, or whatever, that when I look and receive that child, I’m actually receiving him.  That tells me of his heart, and he goes on to share that is the heart of true greatness.  Now it isn’t necessarily just a child he’s talking about.  Some will take this passage and say he’s not just speaking of children, he’s speaking of little one’s in general, meaning, those that are little in the faith, a new-believer or somebody who may seem insignificant in society, somebody that maybe is a homeless person, or maybe is greatly disadvantaged, or maybe very simple, and we may say “little one” and he says “receive the little one”.  The heart of greatness is “I love you, I receive you, I welcome you, you’re so important to me.”  And that’s the heart of Christ.  And he says later in Matthew 25, verse 40, “Assuredly I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”   ‘I love them, and you did it to them, and you treated them a certain way, you’ve done it to me.’  So that tells me about his heart towards the child, towards the little ones.  That’s a welcoming heart, that’s a great heart.  And when you have that in a church, you have a great church.  A great church is a church, where the homeless man comes in, somebody maybe very simple, somebody maybe very just confused and affected by life, and they come in, and others in society would just give them room [like back off from them], yet a great church says, ‘Hey, man, welcome to our church, it is just great to have you.  What’s your name?  Hey let’s grab a cup of coffee.’  That is the heart of Christ, and that is the heart of true greatness---arms open wide, heart open wide, to receive the little one, to notice the insignificant one, to give special attention to those with little position and power.  Romans chapter 14, verse 1, “Receive one who is weak in the faith”, same type of thing.  Somebody’s weak in the faith, then he goes on to talk about what he does there in Romans.  Now when he says what he does here, ‘When you receive them, you receive me’, we know he says a little bit more from Mark, he continues just a little bit further.  In Mark he says “And whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”  So he just keeps going, you’re receiving God the Father when you receive this little creation that God has made, this little jewel.  So the heart of true greatness, the heart of true greatness, you know, is receiving, receiving anybody, is loving them, giving them importance in our lives. 


The heart of true greatness also protects the little ones


Verses 6-7, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a milestone were hung around his neck, and he were drown in the depth of the sea.  Woe to the world because of offenses!  For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!”  It’s also, secondly, the heart of true greatness is a heart that gives protection to the little one.  As you see there in verses 6, 7, and 8, and hear the heart of Christ, hear his heart come through when he says what he says here.  He says, ‘If anybody, I mean, woe to him, woe to him who causes a little one to stumble, who harms in any way a little one.’  [Taken in just a physical sense, why did Yahweh hate Baal worship, which first infected the northern kingdom or House of Israel, and then the southern House of Judah?  Because Baal worshippers were burning little children and babies alive in child-sacrifices.  Are we so different, sophisticated that it doesn’t apply to us?  Modern day Baal worship is when we sacrifice millions of unborn babies in abortions, or when hundreds of thousand of children go missing as a result of pedophile predators, who rape little children and then kill them to hide their crime.  Log onto read through that whole series to see how God, Yahweh, the pre-incarnate Christ dealt with that national sin.]  Woe to him.  When he says these things, he says ‘Better for that person to have a millstone’, and when he says millstone he’s referring, we see them in Israel when we go on Mount Carmel there, when we go to Megiddo, there is a millstone up there, and this is the type, there’s different kinds of millstones, but the Greek word refers to the larger one, the one that would be drawn [turned] by a donkey.  I mean, there’s one up on Megiddo that’s probably six feet wide [average width, three feet in our old gristmills in New England], and it’s just all stone [looks like a giant stone wheel, several feet thick by three to six feet across in diameter].  Six feet wide and maybe two or three feet high, just a big thing, and he says, ‘better to have that around your neck, and to be thrown into the sea’, and when he says sea, the Greek word means the crashing waves of the sea, what you would find way out in the middle of the Atlantic.  If you harm a little one, you have two options at that point, and this is the option you should take, he says, ‘Take that millstone, wrap it around your feet, go to the middle of the Atlantic, drop in and just sink to the bottom.  That’s the better option then dealing with me.’  That’s what he says.  And look at his heart, his heart towards the little one, the insignificant, whether it be the child, or it be the young believer, that’s what he’s saying.  The love that he has, the heart of greatness, is a heart that has that protecting heart.  ‘Woe to the world because of offenses, woe to the world because of sin, sin’s going to come, but woe to the man by whom they come.’  ‘Woe to the people that open the door, and they make the buck, and they take advantage, and they hurt lives, and they hurt the simple, and they hurt the insignificant, woe to them, better to be thrown into the ocean.’  Now when he describes being thrown into the ocean, it’s interesting, the disciples would probably realize this, that the Phoenicians, one of their forms of capital punishment was to drown you.  They would tie a big weight to you, throw you in the water, and you would drawn.”  [The Phoenicians, if you log onto that history link about the kings of Israel, were the major maritime power in the ancient world, sailing even outside of Gibraltar into the Atlantic Ocean.]  Now that is brutal to think about that way of dying.  You know, our culture would give you a shot.  They throw you in the ocean and let you drown.  He says, ‘Woe to the man, the person’, and I tell you what, I read that, and I thank God that’s his heart.  And I think as Christians, our hearts grow in that way, it’s a great heart.  Maybe you got this, I got a letter this week, the little newsletter from Dobson, and he was talking about pornography in his little newsletter, and how it effects young people…[tape switchover, some text lost]…or whatever it might be, and he was sharing how the Bundy’s of the world, where the predators have been out there, and have done really evil crimes, it’s often traced back starting with pornography [especially child pornography, often called ‘kiddy-porn’].  But as he shared in his newsletter, just a couple years ago, I think it was 2002 if I remember the statistics, there were just a couple hundred thousand pornographic websites on the Internet, couple hundred thousand.  But now there’s over 4 million of them, last year [2004], 4,000,000.  How many people does it take to run 4 million websites of pornography?  How many people does it take to pose in all those pictures?  4 million websites.  That’s really scary man, that’s a statement of our world, and where we’re going.  It would seem to me it would take millions of people to run millions of websites, and to have all that material, and stuff that I’m sure you wouldn’t even imagine, you couldn’t even think of stuff so twisted. I thank God Jesus says, ‘Woe to them.’  You know we’ve had people in our culture, thank God, who are saying this is wrong.  This stuff shouldn’t be here, we shouldn’t even be getting near this stuff, but it shouldn’t even be accessible to kids, we need to do something.  And they come up with the cases [our hardworking police departments with their detectives and the hardworking FBI], and they come up before judges, and the judges go ‘Freedom of Expression!’.  And God says, “Woe to them!  Woe to them!”  Freedom of expression?---freedom to destroy life???  We have people who are just making big bucks, man, as lobbyist groups, part of the porn industry, and you know the world you live in, we could go on and on and on. [And just think of how many genuine Ted Bundy type predators this is creating each year, in the hundreds of thousands maybe.  The silent abduction, rape and killing of our young children and toddlers---this is a form of modern Baal worship, child sacrifice, if ever there was one.  Do you think God is going to do any less than what he did to the northern House of Israel, or the southern House of Judah in the 700s and 600s BC for going heavily into Baal worship?---when through abortion and the creation of all these predators through pornography, our western nations have already killed multiple millions of unborn babies, toddlers and young children?  If you are so foolish to think we will escape God’s judgment, then read through the sections on Kings & Chronicles starting at  God said, “I change not…”  Yahweh of the Old Testament was the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ, who is returning to this earth real soon.  These judges, as well as our whole messed up society is about to get judged, and the judgment is called the Great Tribulation, World War III, and our English speaking countries will not get off scot-free this time, we’re going to lose that war and go into captivity, just as certainly as Israel and Judah did in the 700s and 600s BC.  God is no respecter of persons, what he did to them for their gross murder of young ones, he will not pardon us for doing the same, and we’ve murdered these innocents to a far greater degree than they did back then.]  And at the same time, true greatness, a great church and great men and women are people that don’t just sit back and say ‘Oh, so be it.’  We’re fervent in our prayer and bold in our witness, and we make a voice, and we make a stand for righteousness, true greatness.  You know, I’ll mention this to you, let God lead you, but we can legally do this.  But you know, the whole same-sex marriage thing, right now there are folks that are getting---I’m sure you’ve heard about it, watching the press, reading the paper, but there’s a lot of people gathering signatures for a ballot initiative by November of whatever, they need 65,000 signatures, then next year our state house has to vote on it.  But if there’s only 25 percent of them that agree with it, I think they have to do it one more time, and then at 2008 the people get to vote on it.  And the whole thing, it’s just a marriage amendment. Now I don’t totally agree with it, but a lot of people are saying it’s our best shot, and maybe it is.  It says “A marriage in our state will be from this point on one man and one woman”, meaning we can’t reverse what’s happened, but from this point on…I’d like to reverse everything.  But maybe it is the best option.  I think it would be sad, maybe you could unravel everything, I think you can do all things in Christ, but my fear is not to be a voice at all.  [Jeremiah couldn’t change the corrupt ways of the society in Judah in the 600s BC, but that didn’t shut him up, he cried out louder and louder.  Jeremiah set the prime example for us believers, what we need to be like to the society around us, and it is all written down for us to read.  Soon I’ll have a commentary up on the Book of Jeremiah.  But sure to log onto it and read it.  Maybe the time has come to emulate Jeremiah, and this commentary may help us to understand how we can do that.  Understand though, our emulation of Jeremiah must be done in love as he loved, weeping for Judah, not done in hatred like that Westboro ‘baptist’ church.]  So lots of churches, and maybe you have a different opinion, but I think same-sex marriage is hurting a lot of people, man.  And it’s especially going to hurt a lot of kids…I believe same-sex marriage hurts kids, because I think kids need a man and a woman, a mom and a dad.  And there are a lot of single parents out there, and God be with you, God’s gracious, and that’s just the reality of life today.  But to make it into law that it’s fine to institute marriage that’s different than as man and a woman together, that’s just so destructive in so many ways.  And I think history proves it, I think sociology and science proves it too…


The heart of greatness is removing from your life whatever it is that would cause a little one to stumble


Verses 8-9, “If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you.  It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire.  And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you.  It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.”  And then he goes on in verses 8 to 9, the heart of greatness is a protecting heart, but the heart of greatness is also one that  says ‘I will do whatever is necessary in my life, I will make whatever sacrifices, I will remove whatever privileges so that my life in no way will cause you to stumble.  We’ve read verse 8 and 9 earlier in Matthew chapter 5, remember, same words, Jesus shares the same thing ‘If your hand or foot causes you to sin, man, better to cut it off, if your eye causes you to sin, better to pluck it off, if it’s going to keep tripping you up, then to enter into eternity in hell.  Get rid of it now, if that’s what’s going to keep you from going into the kingdom of heaven.  Now, obviously, there are some people that have taken this physically, literally, and his point isn’t to take it physically, literally, the point is an issue of heart.  But there are things potentially in your life, remove them from your life so nothing keeps you from seeking God.  If it’s another person, if it’s a habit, if it’s something that seemingly is good, but yet it’s something that’s keeping you from God, take it out of your life, so nothing keeps you from knowing God and walking with God.  But when he says it here, he’s speaking again of the little ones, because he picks right up with the little ones again in verses 10 to 14.  So the heart of what he’s saying here, is in the aspect of stumbling somebody, that he’s just talked about.  Don’t cause another little one to sin or stumble, and whatever it takes, man, whatever it takes in your life, remove it from your life.  And that is the heart of greatness.  That is the heart of a maturing Christian.  You know, sometimes I’ll sit with, and you do it, I’ll sit with a growing believer, and there will be clear compromising in their life, clearly sin in their life, and they’ll try to reason, ‘No it’s not sin, it’s not sin.’  And we’ll go through it, and I’ll say ‘Well listen, it’s a pretty bad witness anyway.’  And they’ll say ‘Well it’s their problem if they think it’s whatever.’  And so you get in this little debate.  It’s like the living together thing, you know.  I believe living together, two Christians, a man and a woman that aren’t married is a sin.  And so I’ll sit down and say ‘Man, that’s wrong.’  And they’ll say, ‘No, we’re not even intimate, he has his room, I have my room, but we’re just living together, because it just helps financially, and some day we’re going to get married.’  I’ll say ‘It’s a sin.’  They’ll say,  ‘Well it’s not a sin.’  I’ll then say, ‘Well, it’s a pretty bad witness.’  They’ll says, ‘Well, we’re not doing anything.  If they think we are, that’s their problem.’  No, because look what we read here.  The heart of greatness says ‘I care about my brother.  I don’t want to stumble you, I don’t want to offend you.  I want the kids to come to this church and see an example, and so therefore I cut off that habit and do whatever I need to do.  That’s the heart of what he’s saying, the point being, that’s the heart of Christ.  Now, it is true, when it comes to removing things from your life, you can’t satisfy everybody, that is absolutely true.  I’ve mentioned it before, but some would like me to wear a suit, and they think that it’s important that you wear a suit.  And some people are like, ‘No, no, no, no, that would be a problem in our culture, you need to wear shorts [laughter].’  So, I wear a suit-jacket with shorts, trying to keep everybody happy, you know, I got flip-flops on and a tie, you know [laughter].  You can’t keep everybody happy, it’s true.  But the heart of greatness is, I love you, and I’m going to live in a way that you’re built up and encouraged [by my example], and if it’s offending you, man, that’s important to me, and if it’s causing you to wrestle with Christ and to stumble, that’s important to me. you know, just to note, when he says “hellfire” he adds to it in the other Gospels, chapter 9, verses 43, 46, the parallel story there, it says he says this, “better than going into hell”, he says, “into the fire that shall never be quenched, where the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”  [The Body of Christ has varying beliefs about heaven and hell.  To see some of them, log onto]


The heart of true greatness is going after the lost---saving the lost


Verses 10-14, “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.  For the Son of man has come to save that which was lost.  What do you think?  If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying?  And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not stray.  Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”  Well the heart of true greatness is that protecting heart, it’s the heart of just you’re important to me, it’s also the heart that says ‘you have prominence.’  As he shares in verse 10, Jesus is saying here that the little ones, their angels have prominence.  And I don’t know if I totally understand verse 10, listening to different theories and studies and whatever, but there is this point, and you hear the heart of it, that the little child, he’s got this little one in his arms, he says, ‘Understand that right now in that throne-room of God, their angels have a certain position right now, because they’re a little one.  They have a certain position right now, a privileged position, a prominent one before God.’  So he’s sharing the heart of God towards that young one.  Now we could go on and on in the theology of angels, right, and clearly in the Bible there is this big angelic realm, seemingly we have guardian angels.  Some people develop theology that’s really weird, all these weird stories or whatever, but there is this angelic realm and it is very powerful.  And there’s all kinds of things going on around our lives, and we’re even told ‘Be careful to be hospitable to strangers you entertain, because you may very well entertain an angel.  And I wonder, once in my life if I actually saw an angel, I wonder if I did.  But, we have angels in our lives, they’re working with us [even though we can’t see them].  I guess you have some angels that work with you, and I have some that work with me, that’s what it seems in Scripture.  But he says, these little ones, their angels man, they have such a place before the Lord, such a position.  They always see his face.  Meaning, that they always have access to God’s throne in heaven.  That little one, man his angel’s right before God, that little one, I mean, it’s so important to the Lord.  So, the heart, the heart of greatness, as he’s again given this illustration, this is what greatness is guys.  It’s that kind of heart towards someone insignificant, someone maybe little in our eyes…he or she is so valued, so important in God’s eyes.  Then taking that same heart a little further, the great heart is one which seeks the salvation of these little ones---that their salvation is of utmost importance.  As he shares in those last verses we’ll look at, they’re so dear, my heart, the heart of Christ, the heart of greatness, is that the little ones, ‘man I so much long and desire for your salvation,’ as he says there.  “For the Son of man has come to save that which was lost.”  And then he goes on, ‘If one of them goes astray, a guy’s got a 100 sheep, one of them goes astray, he leaves the 99 and goes and finds the one, and at that point he is rejoicing more in that one he just found than in all the 99.  So he just so much wants him near him, he so much wants him (or her) saved, so much wants him in eternity, their spiritual wellbeing is so vitally important to his heart.  And that’s the heart of greatness.  You know, the Jewish man [back then], ‘I may not associate with a child, I may put myself on another level,’ and God’s saying, ‘No, the heart of greatness says, wow, I really want to impact your life if I can, in a way that you would long to be with Christ.  I’m going to pray for you, I want to influence you in any way possible that you would turn your heart towards Christ.’  That’s the heart of greatness, longing for the little ones.  I look at the city and I’m burdened for the schools, and I’m burdened for the youth, and I care what’s happening, and I’m burdened for the children’s ministry.  When I get asked to help in the children’s ministry, it’s not like ‘Oh no, not with them, come on, man.’  It’s like, ‘Alright man, yeah, man, boy Lord, how can you use me Lord, how can I make a difference in one of those kids lives, how can I make a difference Lord?’  That’s the heart of greatness, that’s that heart.  It’s the heart of Christ.  Just look at the cross, it’s what he did.  That’s the way he is.  And that’s the heart.  ‘The Son of man came to save that which was lost…for God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.’  And last verse, let’s just turn to Isaiah, I’ll read a verse with you.  This is, you think of this passage too, thinking of the LORD, in the way he is with the little ones, and this is what he’s showing the disciples, this greatness and so then we have a picture too in Isaiah that kind of seems to fit here too.  Isaiah chapter 40, verse 11, “He will feed his flock like a shepherd.  He will gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.”  [taken in context with verses 9-12, this is talking about his people Israel and Judah, so the context is people, not real sheep.]  So the heart, the shepherd, maybe you think of the painting you’ve seen, the Lord, the Good Shepherd, he’s got the little lambs in his arms, holding them close to his bosom, so close to his heart, and then leading them, and those with young, just leading them so gently, that’s the heart of greatness.  It’s a heart that longs for their wellbeing, their salvation.  So as a dad, if I have that heart, the great dad is the dad who longs for his kids to know Christ.  I long for them not just to know him, but to be grow in him.  As a mom in the same way, to seek to teach you and to instruct you, I’m concerned for your spiritual wellbeing, I’m concerned for what’s going into your heart and mind.  I don’t want things that are going to defile you, and I’m concerned about that, I’m watching your life, and I’m seeking to shepherd you, and to build you up in the things of the Lord.  That’s the heart of greatness.  So, these guys have an illustration, and you and I do too, as we think about it.  I think they’re going to learn a lot more later, because then Jesus goes to the cross, and then everything else kind of sinks in at that point, what he did.  True greatness, we see the attitude.  He says, the attitude, just be willing to take on that status, be insignificant, to be as the child.  It’s a statement of humility.  That’s true greatness, the attitude of greatness.  Take the least position.  The faith of true greatness is a childlike faith, ‘Whatever you say, Lord, I trust in, and I do depend on, that’s your Word, I believe it’, just as a child would.  And the heart of true greatness is where the least are given importance, we receive them, we’re understanding we’re receiving Christ when we receive them, and where the least are given protection.  He says, ‘Woe to the man or the woman or to anyone that causes them to stumble [or to cause them harm, even physically], and we have that same heart, it’s the heart of protection.  And whatever radical steps I need to take to make sure that I’m not causing someone to stumble, I want to be a stepping stone, not a stumbling block.  It’s a heart where little ones are given such prominence, I think of the angels, man, their angels, where they are.  And it’s where little one’s, their salvation to me is so important.  ‘In your grace, I pray Lord you’d just sear that image of you with that little one in your arms, you’d sear it right into our hearts and minds, that it would become more a part of what we are, that we would be great people, Lord, truly great.  Lord, help us to discern and understand what really is in our own hearts.  I pray for my own heart, all our hearts, that we would be men and women willing to take whatever position, whatever status, and stop caring so much what people think, and trying to get respect, trying to be noticed, that we’d just follow you Lord’…[transcript of a connective expository sermon on Matthew 18:1-14, given somewhere in New England.] 


Related links:


Heart of Greatness, protects the little ones:  (Pornography and abortion are killing millions of innocent unborn babies and little children just like Baal worship did for ancient Israel and Judah) see:

(and go through the entire six part series.)


Heart of Greatness seeks to save the lost:


Body of Christ’s varying beliefs about heaven and hell: