I am not fond of accolades; they make me nervous. Not too long ago I received a glowing one for an act of service I had given, and it came from someone whom I personally hold in high regard, which made me even more uncomfortable.
“That’s great,” you say; “What’s the problem?” The “problem” is that I have seen what sometimes happens to folks who allow words of praise to “infect” rather than “affect” them. They start thinking more highly of themselves than they ought, and rarely does that end well. And to be perfectly honest, I often feel guilty of receiving credit for something I feel I didn’t do. Often folks are just responding to the God-given gifts and their operation through me, and I don’t want to be a “glory robber.” So I tend to shy away from high praise of any sort directed towards me.
The problem with my response is that it tends towards self-abasement, which is not much better; nor does it glorify God. The fact is, we are called to be His “image bearers”, carriers and couriers of His glory. He Himself has quite a bit to say about who we are in Christ Jesus.1 So what’s the solution to this conundrum?
Enter “The Little Ones.”
“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 18:3
The little ones hold a special place in the heart of God. But Jesus is not simply referring to little children, as He reveals in the continuing discourse;
“Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. 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…” Matthew 18:4ff
Any and all who “take the lowly position” of a child, who humbly and joyfully embrace the Savior, are the Little Ones that Jesus loves, and are joyfully welcomed into His Kingdom. But what does that mean? What does it look like to be in this position? I came across a great description and explanation about what it means to be humble like a child.
The little child knows himself to be small. He does not pretend to be anything other than he is. He makes himself neither smaller nor greater than he is. Is that not true humility? One who sees himself in the light of his Father Who is in heaven knows himself to be small. He is ready to take the lowest place in the Kingdom with joyous gratitude.”2
While the disciples were looking toward exalted positions next to the Messiah King, the small children were just happy to be anywhere near Jesus! They don’t think more, or less, of themselves. In light of the Father God, they see themselves as they really are: simply loved. And it occurred to me that it’s not so much that little kids are consciously aware of their smallness, as they are aware of the largeness of the elders in their lives. I distinctly remember how large my father always appeared in my little eyes. And I remember how my youngest son never concealed how large I appeared to him.
This is the mindset and focus I need to cultivate. It takes my focus off of me and squarely plants it on God. I recognize my smallness, but it is in the Light of Father God’s magnificent largeness. This will safe guard me from any self-exaltation, and removes the need to put myself down for fear of the same. It also allows me to “live large in God’s largeness.” It allows me to turn the accolades into joyous praise, having been given the opportunity to participate in God’s glorious work, and that by His invitation and empowering!
Also, the little ones appear to come under the special protective, and might I add, vehement, jealousy of Father God:
“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. 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!… 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.” Matthew 18:6,7,10
All in all, it is very good to be counted among the little ones; and that is the point. The little ones of any and every age come under the loving care of God. That brings me great comfort; if I continue to live as one “who believes in Him” (Matt.18:4), then I am guarded against dangers and snares from without and within.
So let the accolades come. In my smallness I will turn them into great praise and offer them up to my larger than life Heavenly Father. I am happy to be counted among The Little Ones!
- 1.Rom.8:37; Eph.2:6; 2 Cor.5:21; Rom.8:1; Rom.8:2; 1 Cor.1:30… you get the idea.
- 2. The Layman’s Bible Commentary; vol 16-Matthew; p.99