The Need For Humility

Wakefield tells the story of the famous inventor Samuel Morse who was once asked if he ever encountered situations where he didn’t know what to do. Morse responded, “More than once, and whenever I could not see my way clearly, I knelt down and prayed to God for light and und … More


Selfishness and disunity of God’s people was and continues to be a big problem. By nature, all of us are rebels who want to be celebrities instead of servants. The disciples were no exception; they wanted to know who was greatest in the kingdom (v. 1). In this passage Jesus teaches three essentials for unity and harmony among God’s people.

  1. The need for humility (v. 1). Recent events would have aggravated the problem and particularly in Peter’s case. He had walked on water, and even had his taxes paid by means of a miracle. It would have been easy to think of himself more highly than he should have.
  2. The example of humility (v. 2-6). Jesus’ answer to their question came in the form of an object lesson. He called a little child to stand among them while He spoke to them. He explained how greatness was not based on good works but on childlike humility of spirit.
  3. The cost of humility (v. 7-9). Humility begins with self-examination and continues with self-denial.  Jesus was not suggesting that we harm our bodies but instructing us to perform “spiritual surgery”. That is to remove anything that causes us to stumble or that may cause others to stumble.

The immediate context in Matthew relates “little ones” to believers but the cross reference in (Luke 15:3-7) clearly refers to lost sheep. Thus, it is not the ultimate desire of God that anyone perish. Jesus has in mind the humility of little children and their unconcern for social status or public opinion. He encourages us to place childlike trust in Him, regardless of what others may think.


True humility is the avoiding of two extremes; one is thinking less of myself than I ought to (as Moses did) (Ex. 3:11), or thinking more of myself than I ought to (Rom. 12:3).

Matthew 18:1-9 (English Standard Version)

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. "Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire."

View this passage in NIV (Bible Gateway) »