The disciples were arguing among themselves: “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matthew 18:1) Now they would have agreed that Jesus was the greatest. He is the Christ, the Messiah, the King. Their discussions would have been about the second position on down. What was their pecking order?
In response, Jesus called a child, placed the child in their midst, 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. (Matthew 18:3–4 ESV)
Aristotle writing about virtue would never have mentioned humility. This is a reminder that we are following Jesus and not other ethical instructions. Humility plays an important role in Jesus’s instructions. Humility is to be free of pride and arrogance. Pride in the sense of feeling superior. Arrogance is an excessive claim to position and importance. Paul gives us a good insight with this instruction: “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment” (Romans 12:3, ESV).
Humility is the proper response to God. God is the omnipotent Creator. He is all knowing. I cannot compare with him. Falling down in worship is the proper response, because he is worthy of worship. I am a creature created in the image of God, so that I have value and worth. I’m not nothing. But the proper response before God is humility. I cannot in my mind place myself above God without serious consequences. Humility prepares us to listen to God, and listening prepares me for a life pleasing to God.
Humility also transforms our approach to others. Arrogance makes us act superior to others. Humility doesn’t mean we don’t stand up for ourselves, but it does mean that we see all people as created in the image of God. Everyone is worthy of dignity and respect. Looking down on others occurs in our culture because of wealth, education, race, ethnicity, language and issues like this. None of this arrogance is pleasing to God. Humility leads us to see others as they are from God’s point of view. Greatness in the kingdom of heaven requires humility.
— Russ Holden