Matthew 18

This devotional is written by Sian Dixon.

Matthew 18

The greatest in the kingdom of heaven
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.

Causing to stumble
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 round 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.

The parable of the wandering sheep
10 ‘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.

12 ‘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? 13 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. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

Dealing with sin in the church
15 ‘If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that “every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

18 ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

19 ‘Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.’

The parable of the unmerciful servant
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’

22 Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

23 ‘Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

26 ‘At this the servant fell on his knees before him. “Be patient with me,” he begged, “and I will pay back everything.” 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go.

28 ‘But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. “Pay back what you owe me!” he demanded.

29 ‘His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, “Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.”

30 ‘But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

32 ‘Then the master called the servant in. “You wicked servant,” he said, “I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

35 ‘This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’


Chapter 18 of Matthew's gospel is a sermon by Jesus about the importance of humility and forgiveness and is primarily concerned with relationships within a believing community - the church.

 Jesus teaches his disciples that those who enter the kingdom must exercise childlike humility (1-5). Kingdoms often have hierarchies, and the disciples understandably want to know who is at the top. Jesus' reign, however, is an upside-down kingdom. To even have access to the kingdom, people must become like little children. This obviously doesn't mean being childish, but to be childlike and recognise our dependence and vulnerability - in this case on God.

 We are God's 'little ones' and Jesus is positively encouraging us to welcome, support and encourage other 'little ones' (5), and negatively warning us in strong terms not to cause other 'little one's' to stumble.

 In the parable one of the shepherds' sheep wanders away from the rest of the flock representing a disciple who has walked away. God is eager to bring that sheep back into the fold. God's passionate desire is for his people to be with him. It's why when the sheep has been found it is a cause for celebration. Restoration is always cause for celebration.

 It grieves God when his 'little ones' go off, and he is not willing to let them go. So Jesus gives instructions for how to hold a community of faith together. It starts with humility - we enter as little children and we are to remain dependent on God (1-5). And the ongoing practice as individuals and as a community requires repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.

 As a church family we are meant to mutually submit, prefer and love one another. When we don't, not only does it result in disunity, but the space is no longer safe. There is a breakdown of trust. Jesus loves his church and cares about what happens.

 Pray for your church family today. Pray for the people you like and care for. Pray for the people you find more challenging. Ask the Holy Spirit for forgiveness and help to forgive others.

 Spirit of God - your desire is that we would be one. Help us to leave behind any individualistic notions that we bring to the church. Help us to see each of God's 'little ones' as precious children of God who need support and encouragement. Amen.

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