Hello and welcome to Tuesday’s podcast. My name’s Bryony and I’m with you this week as we continue through Matthew’s gospel. Yesterday we kicked off the week taking about faith and what it looks like to activate our faith. The result of this activation is that God can give us his power. Over the rest of the week I want to consider what it looks like to use this power well, what’s the responsibility it carries nad how does God’s power at work in us and the world look different to the world’s definition of power.
Today I want us to consider ‘the power of position’.
Our youngest child is definitely a power kid, he wants to feel powerful, he pushes back if he feels he’s not in control and he seeks opportunities to wield power daily! In the past this has often led to many power struggles between us. I’ve been learning over the past few years through some parenting coaching that I need to teach him how to feel powerful in an appropriate way, i.e a way that doesn’t involve snatching things from his sister! One of the ways I do this is to give him power, so I might anticipate that he’s going to battle us about getting in the car, so I’ll say ‘would you be in charge of making sure everyone has their seat belts on’. Or he’ll complain about getting a bath and I’ll ask him to be the one who starts the taps running. His desire for power isn’t wrong but the way I teach him to use that power will make all the difference.
We meet Jesus in a moment where he is surrounded by power kids, disciples who want to feel powerful, they want to know they are significant.
In Matthew 18, verse 1-5 we read
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
Jesus has been painting a vivid picture for them of what it looks like to be part of the Kingdom of Heaven, they’ve heard the sermon on the mount when Jesus described the values of the Kingdom, they’ve seen him start to usher in this Kingdom, this new way of living as they’ve witnessed healings and miracles. They are all in, they want a part of this Kingdom, they want to BE a part of the kingdom. This is not in any way I bad thing, of course this is the response Jesus wants from them however in an over-zealous moment someone blurts out the question ‘Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’. They’ve just been talking to Jesus about paying the temple tax so some of that question could be rooting in wanting to know if the religious leaders will have power in the Jesus Kingdom. I also think that this question bears a striking resemblance to a question we will hear in chapter 20 when James and John’s Mum asks if her sons can have a special place next to Jesus in his Kingdom. It’s not hard to see that these questions were rumbling around the disciples as they walked along the road. These questions reveal their hearts, they are focusing on who will have power and how much power will they have in Jesus’ Kingdom. They are power kids looking to have their power bucket filled.
Jesus gives them a lesson in what it means to use power wisely. He tells them they are to change, they are to become like children. Now our modern ears can hear that and think Jesus means that we are to become ‘child-like’ in that we are the outlook of a child, to be humble, to maybe be childish. But Jesus isn’t speaking to the attitude of children here, he’s speaking to their position. The position of a child in Jesus time was LOW, children cost you something and until they were able to work were a burden. In our modern world children are worshipped, set up high, valued. On the news this week I’ve forgotten how many times I’ve heard politicians use the phrase ‘our focus is protecting children and their education’. This was not the case in Jesus’ world, children were not honoured, they were not protected. And so when Jesus speaks to the disciples he is challenging them that the power is to be used to position themselves low. I love Michelle Obama’s and to steal her famous phrase ‘They go low, we go high’ but I want to flip it, Jesus says ‘When they go high, we go low’ – not in how we act but in the position we take. The world say ‘take power’, ‘make power’, ‘find a high position for yourself’ – Jesus says ‘become like a child’, ‘become like the lowest of the low’.
Jesus wants us to leave the distribution of position to him, he know that in his kingdom power and position are not linked. The power he gives us to be his agents in the world means we can lay down the worldly pursuit of power. A scarcity mindset says ‘if they are doing well it must mean I’m doing badly’, ‘If they get noticed, or promoted, them I’m at a loss. A Abundant Kingdom mindset says ‘there’s enough to go around’, ‘your position i the world doesn’t affect my position in the throne room of heaven’.
So today I want to leave us with a question – where are we showing ‘power kid’ behaviours? Where are we fighting to control, to gain position or status because we believe that the position we hold is a signifier of the power we possess. I’m currently in a stay-at-home mum season of life and believe me I’m speaking these questions to myself! But today I’m reminded how Jesus calls us to lay down position, to choose to lift others up, to in the words of Tim Keller ‘not think less of ourselves, but to think of ourselves less’.
God thank you that you are always bringing us fresh bread to chew on. Today we want to wrestle with this passage and what Jesus’ words mean to us. Help us to see the areas of our live which you are highlighting and to be willing to take steps of faith to align our hearts and lives more with your Kingdom values. Amen.
BIBLE READING: Matthew 18:1-14
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
‘If anyone causes one of these little ones – those who believe in me – to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung round their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, 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.
‘See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.
‘What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.