Misleading the Least

Scripture Focus: Matthew 18:6–9
6 “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 around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 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! 8 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. 9 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.

Reflection: Misleading the Least
By John Tillman

The gospels record many times that people asked Jesus about “the greatest.”

There are religious debates about the greatest commandments, and multiple times, in many different settings, the disciples approach Jesus about, or are caught by Jesus arguing about, “the greatest.” (Matthew 18.1-3; 23.11; Luke 9.46; Mark 9.34)

Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven…
Can my two sons sit in the greatest seats…
Which of us is the greatest…
We want to know, don’t we?

Jesus definitively stated that the greatest in the kingdom are the least, the lowest, the small, the “little ones.” Jesus used a child in this example, but there is a different Greek word that refers to age. The word Jesus chooses, translated little, implies low status or being unimportant. 

The unimportant, Jesus says, are of the greatest importance, but we, like the disciples, don’t quite believe it. We want to be important, big, mature, strong, dominant. We want to win. In pursuit of importance and status, we grasp at power. We grasp at fame. We grasp at wealth. All the grasping we engage in to be the greatest, is meaningless—chasing after wind.

This is challenging enough to our sinful nature, but what comes next is more chilling, Jesus has a stark warning for the leaders of the little. To those leaders and influencers who through actions or words may cause “little ones” to stumble, comes one of the most graphic pictures of punishment to cross the lips of Jesus. If Christ’s metaphor about millstones had been carried out literally through history, there might not be room in the oceans for the millstones and the irresponsible leaders tied to them by the neck.

Woe to leaders who mislead. Woe to influencers who cause others to stumble. Woe when we manipulate rather than educate. Woe when we foment sin rather than form spiritual morality. Woe when we lie and deceive rather than unfailingly cling to the truth.

Have we caused others to stumble? If so, how?

By being an example of greed or any other sin? By spreading a lie? By keeping silent in the face of injustice? By sharing an inflammatory post? By provoking others? By being purposely insensitive? By manipulating people?

May we repent of any of our actions or words that may have caused others to stumble. It is better for us to cut those actions out of our lives than to cause harm to others.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy before the Lord when he comes, when he comes to judge the earth. — Psalm 96.12

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Genesis 19 (Listen – 5:33) 
Matthew 18 (Listen – 4:25)

Read more about The Seductive Idolatry of Politics
Politics is the most powerful new religion of this millennium…When forced to choose between country, or party, and Christ, we must choose Christ.

Read more about Lament the Fall of Leaders (Even Bad Ones)
The removal of a bad leader is often like the lancing of a boil or a surgery to remove cancer.

Invisible Status

Scripture Focus: Matthew 18.1-5
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

Reflection: Invisible Status
By John Tillman

The disciples were constantly grasping for status. 

Over and over the gospel accounts give us insight into the ways they jostled one another, trying to be better than the rest, bigger than the rest, closer to Jesus, more “righteous,” more powerful…

“Who is the greatest?” they ask, each hoping it will be himself.

Jesus urged his disciples, and he urges us, to lay down all such status-addicted, scrambling, scuffling struggle. When they pressed around him longing for greatness, Jesus called to himself someone they never would have expected—a child. 

Children, and women, were so low status that they were invisible to the statisticians, politicians, and religious leaders of the day, but Jesus sees those who are made invisible by culture. Jesus kicks over our definition of greatness.

Jesus calls “the greatest” those others call “the least.”
Jesus moves the invisible to the best seats at the feast.

Jesus calls the ignored who no one thought should come.
Jesus gives a hand up to those under a thumb.

Jesus calls attention to ones we are too blind to see.
Jesus hears the pleas of those crushed beneath our knees.

Jesus gives strength to those we mock for being weak.
Jesus elevates the lowly from the valleys to the peaks. 

Jesus makes great those accepting they are small.
He will be our everything when we make him our all.

We don’t have to convince Christ of our potential based on past performance. There is no need to demonstrate return on investment. His investment in us is already assured. It is his own work and word that will not return void without fulfilling its purpose in us.  He accepts us not based on our past but on the future he will guide us towards.

When we come to Jesus, we must leave behind any thoughts of status. Thanks be to God.

“I hear you have a soft spot for fools and little children and I’m glad. ‘Cause I’ve been both of those.” — from “Farther On” by Russ Taff

Divine Hours Prayer: The Small Verse
The Lord is my shepherd and nothing is wanting to me. In green pastures He has settled me. — The Short Breviary

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 4 (Listen – 5:23) 
Matthew 18 (Listen – 4:25)

Read more about Dirty Feet
Jesus…turned everything upside down. Surely, shouldn’t the servants be washing their master’s feet?

Read more about Blessed is the One :: A Guided Prayer
But we rely, Lord, not on our striving, but on Jesus Christ…Jesus is the Blessed One, whose leaf does not wither.

Free to Become Like Children :: Worldwide Prayer

Matthew 18.1-3
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.

Reflection: Free to Become Like Children :: Worldwide Prayer
By John Tillman

We often repeat our vision that God’s Word can be in our lives like a park in a city. There are many facets to that vision.

Parks bring many benefits to a city that are analogous to the benefits of regularly entering into God’s Word. But the one we focus on today, using the prayer included below, is on recreation.

There is benefit to approaching the Bible with a mind engaged in intellectual investigation. There is benefit to studiously engaging the scriptures in rigorous study. There is great benefit in committing the scriptures to memory.

But there is a special joy that can be found when we explore God’s Word as a child exploring a park, with no intention other than the pleasure of reading the words that our Heavenly Father has given us.

Jesus has granted us the ability to become like little children and to run freely to him. Run in his Word this weekend. Read the scriptures for the enjoyment of his presence.

The prayer below celebrates the freedom that the Father has given us through Christ, speaking, “yes,” over us, freeing us from the dictator of selfishness, and allowing us to become his people—his children.

A prayer of praise and thanksgiving from Germany
Lord Jesus, we thank you
That you have shared with us
The Father’s love
That you have entered the ambiguity
Of our history,
And spoken the Father’s YES
Into our lives.

Spirit of God, we thank you
That you have brought the riches of salvation
Into the poverty of our human experience.

We praise you, our God,
For calling us into existence,
For liberating us from our unbending self-will,
And for sharing your life with us.

Gracious God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Source of our living, and hope in our dying,
Touch our life with your grace,
Set us free to become your people
And grant us the privilege of joining your passion
For the world.

*Prayer from Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world, Dr. Tony Cupit, Editor.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
I call with my whole heart; answer me O Lord, that I may keep your statutes.  — Psalm 119.145

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Genesis 19 (Listen – 5:33)
Matthew 18 (Listen – 4:25)

This Weekend’s Readings
Genesis 20 (Listen – 2:39) Matthew 19 (Listen – 4:04)
Genesis 21 (Listen – 3:59) Matthew 20 (Listen – 4:22)

Are you interested in joining an online community to share with The Park Forum readers? Email us at: info@theparkforum.org

Read more about How to Find Freedom
What power there is in pure love for Jesus—love that is free from all self-interest and self-love! — Thomas à Kempis


Read more about Prayer as Relationship :: Readers’ Choice
Many have faithfully lived out Christ’s command to let the little children come to him. But perhaps no one in history has lived it out affecting as many children as Fred Rogers.

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