I enjoy seeing my loyalty card in Caffe Nero fill up with those little red Ns. I can measure my progress and see how close I am getting to that free coffee. Once the card is full I am entitled to a free drink. In Matthew 18 Jesus reveals to the disciples that their entitlement to the privileges of the Kingdom of God has nothing to do with their loyalty and everything to do with His loyalty for them. Where the Kingdom of God is concerned they have no loyalty stamps to bargain with. The disciples were still not getting it and they were wondering who was the greatest? They wanted Jesus to show them what they were entitled to as a result of the lives they lived. Jesus invites a child into the middle of this discussion as a visual aid of what they were entitled to. Children had no rights in this culture. They were totally at the mercy of adults and in the next chapter there was an attempt to keep children away from Jesus. He responded to those who were getting in the way by saying about children ‘the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.’ You don’t enter the kingdom because you’ve been around a while longer than others. Age or experience carry no points.
Regular Bible Reading = 0 points
Volunteer in Youth Ministry = 0 points
Summer Team Member = 0 points
Church Leader = 0 points
Events you attended = 0 points
Jesus wants the disciples (past and present) to know that it’s only on the basis of His loyalty not ours that we can enter the Kingdom of God. We have no right to it because of what we have done. This liberates us from the crushing weight of trying to look good. Our motivation for serving (and our ability to say no to requests to serve) is empowered by the good news that it’s Jesus service for us that entitles us to be welcome in the Kingdom of God. When we forget this we become jealous of others who seem to be out-serving us or proud and judgmental because those around us are not measuring up to our standard. We default to the pecking order of this world and end up in a silly game of Paper Rock Scissors. Self pity is what often arises in our hearts when we ignore what Jesus has achieved for us. We look to our own serving and think ‘I deserve better’ or we see others doing great things and feel sorry for ourselves because we’ve not been able to accomplish what they have accomplished.
Tullian Tchvidjian says “Sometimes God puts us in a position where our only comfort comes not from what others think about us but from what God thinks about us in Christ.” If you want to enter the kingdom of God, you need to depend on Jesus. His loyalty to God, not yours. His obedience to God not yours. His service to God, not yours. His sacrifice, not yours. His greatness, not yours.
I hear the Saviour say
thy strength indeed is small
Child of weakness watch and pray
find in me thine all in all ‘Jesus Paid It All’
I’m off for a hazelnut cappuccino.