Matthew 18:1-4:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

What does this mean? How can we apply it?


4 Answers 4


Great question! There are so many things about this verse that are so awesome. I would propose Jesus' answer has a two-fold answer.

Part 1 First, Jesus says that we will not enter the kingdom of heaven unless we become like a child. We need to change our mindset and think like children think. Not that we become immature and act childish in the traditional sense, but that we accept things in simplicity. Children have a way of believing everything you say and believing it as fact. It's only when we grow up that we tend to question everything. The currency of the kingdom of heaven is faith. It's what moves God's heart and what the great people of God are known for. So for the first part Jesus is telling us, "have faith like a child".

Part 2 The humility of children is very evident. It's a beautiful thing to watch. Although they may compete with each other in games and such, the humiliity they have without even knowing it is astouding! They were also thought of in Jewish culture as insignificant until they were 12. Essentially, Jesus is saying act as if you were the lowest in society. Jesus often tell us to go lower if we want to be higher. Our humility in His eyes equals in direct proportion to how He exalts us. The word says over and over that our job is to humble ourselves in His sight and He exalts us.

I hope this makes sense and helps :)

  • If it is that great you can up vote it! :) Commented Feb 3, 2012 at 16:11
  • 1
    oops forgot i could ;)
    – Steee
    Commented Feb 3, 2012 at 16:19
  • I disagree. Children are naturally curious and ask questions all the time.
    – Luke
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 9:47
  • could you please elaborate some more on the humility of children? :) thank you! great answer by the way :)
    – user65165
    Commented Jul 7, 2015 at 21:42

It's hard to top the Haydock commentary for this so I'll just cite it and link to it (though I did add the emphasis):

Ver. 1. Who, thinkest thou? This altercation for superiority among the apostles, whilst they were upon their road to Judea, might have arisen from another cause besides the precedence given by Jesus Christ to Peter above, as St. Chrysostom (hom. lix. in Mat.) affirms. A report prevailed among the disciples, that Christ would soon die; and they wished to know who would be the first, when he was gone. (Jansenius) --- Or expecting that by his future resurrection he would enter into full possession of his temporal kingdom, they wished to learn which of them should be the greater in this new and glorious state. Calmet supposes that Peter was not with them, but that he had gone before with his Master to Capharnaum. (Calmet)

Ver. 2. And Jesus calling ... a little child. In St. Mark (ix. 32.) we find that Jesus did this in the house, when they were arrived at Capharnaum.

Ver. 3. You shall not enter, &c. i.e. you shall have no place in my kingdom of glory, in heaven, where none shall find admittance but they that are truly humble. (Witham) --- Our Lord in this and the next chapter teaches us, 1st, To sit down in the lowest place; 2nd, to bear patiently with our neighbor; 3rd, not to scandalize a weak brother; 4th, mildly to correct him when faulty; and 5thly, to forgive him when repentant.

Ver. 4. Greater in the kingdom of heaven, because more conformable to me here on earth. Humble souls, who are little in their own eyes, are so dear and closely united to the Almighty, that Christ declares them to be the most acceptable, the first in merit, not highest in authority or dignity either in church or state, as some idle fanatics pretend. (Jansenius) --- The kingdom of heaven is not the reward of ambition, but the boon of simplicity and humility.

Link: http://haydock1859.tripod.com/id36.html


I believed that one of the greatest qualities of children is meekness. Children are lowly in heart. Matt(11:29). Jesus says "blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth". Children are submissive and lack their own initiative or will. They have to depend on their parents or other adults for everything. A meek spirit is of great value before God (1st peter 3:4)

  • 2
    Welcome to the site. I hope to see you post again soon.
    – user3961
    Commented Dec 23, 2013 at 6:11

I believe we have to take a look at this verse from a deeper perspective. Lets take a deeper look at what a child is really like.

A child is always in a state of awe and rests within an unknown paradigm. Call it innocence if you will. Untouched by worldly belief constructs. Their heart is pure and they are completely free of mental slavery. They have have no understanding of heaven and hell. They only know the world through direct experience renewing itself with every moment. They don't see other people as separate from themselves but as one giant family...compassion.

So really if one wants to enter the Kingdom, I feel that we have to cleanse our mind of all fixed belief constructs. And allow our heart to be our primary thinking agent.

  • Can't believe this answer is at the bottom! It's perfect. Children live precisely in the here and now. That is exactly what Jesus meant.
    – Luke
    Commented May 19, 2015 at 9:48

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