Daily Family Worship

Matthew 18: Humility, Offences, and Forgiveness

by | Jan 18, 2024

matthew 18

The first thing that we are taught in verses 1-9 is the necessity of conversion, and of that conversion being manifested by childlike humility. The disciples came to our Lord with the question, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” They received an answer containing a truth which lies at the very foundation of Christianity: “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” They were ambitious of being the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven; but Christ here tells them that, unless they came to a better mindset, they would never come into that Kingdom at all! Let these words sink down deeply into our hearts. Without conversion, there is no true salvation. And one sure mark of true conversion is humility. Like a little child, we shall think humbly of our own strength and wisdom, and we shall be very dependent upon our Father in heaven. Like children, we shall not seek great things in this world; for, since we have food and clothing and our Father’s love, we shall be very content indeed.

The next thing that we are taught in these verses is the great sin of putting stumbling-blocks in the way of believers. The words of the Lord Jesus on this subject are peculiarly solemn. “Woe to that man by whom the offence cometh.” How is it that we put offences or stumbling-blocks in the way of people’s souls? We do so whenever we do anything to keep them back from Jesus, or to turn them out of the way of salvation, or to disgust them with true Christianity. We may do it directly by persecuting, ridiculing, or dissuading them from decisive service of Christ. Or we may do it indirectly by living a life that is inconsistent with our religious profession, and by making Christianity loathsome and distasteful by our own conduct. Whenever we do anything of this kind, it is clear – from our Lord’s words – that we commit a very great and grievous sin.

The great theme that we are taught in verses 10-14 is the value that God sets upon even the least and lowest of His people. We must take heed that we do not despise one of these little ones. The Lord’s sons and daughters are very dear to Him; they are cared for by the angels who dwell near the eternal throne. The highest courtiers of glory count it their honor to watch over the lowly in heart. Those who are servants to the poor saints and little children are allowed free entrance to the King; what, then, must He think of His little ones themselves? And this is not all, for Jesus Himself cares for the poorest and neediest! Yes, He came “to save that which was lost!” How dare we be proud, then – despising a child because of her youth, or a man because of his poverty or lack of intelligence! No, sir! The angels and the angels’ King care for the most despised of our human race, and shall we not do so also?

“How think ye?” the Savior asks. “If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?” Here we learn that we may not even think harshly of wandering ones! He Who would not have us despise the little will not have us neglect the lost, either. In fact, the lost are to have special consideration. Is not the shepherd – for the moment – more concerned about the one sheep that has gone astray than the 99 which are safe? To save it, he personally makes a mountain journey to seek out that one poor lost lamb! And when it is found, it gives the shepherd more immediate joy than all the rest – just because it had caused him more present concern.

In verses 15-20, let us notice how admirable are the rules which are laid down by our Lord for the healing of differences among our brothers and sisters in Christ. If we have received any injury from a fellow-Christian, the first step to be taken is to visit him alone and tell him his fault. Who can tell? Perhaps he may immediately admit, “I was wrong,” and make ample reparations. However, if this course of proceeding fails to produce any good effect, we are to take with us one or two companions and tell our brother of his fault in their presence. Who knows? Maybe his conscience will be stricken when he finds that his misconduct has been made known, and then he may be ashamed and repent. Finally, if this second course of proceeding proves useless, we are to refer the whole matter to the Christian congregation of which we are members; we are to “tell it to the church.” Perhaps the heart which has been unmoved by private remonstrances may be moved by the fear of public exposure. But if not, there remains only one view to take of our brother’s case: we must sorrowfully regard him as one who has shaken off all Christian principles. 

The remainder of this chapter (verses 21-35) details the teachings of the Lord Jesus upon a deeply important subject: forgiveness. He tells us a story of a man who owed an enormous sum to his master – more than he could ever realistically repay in his entire lifetime. He had “nothing to pay”; nevertheless, at the time of reckoning, his master had compassion on him and “forgave him all.” But this very man, after being forgiven himself, refused to forgive a fellow-servant a trifling debt of a few pennies! He even threw him into prison, and he would not abate one jot of his demand. The Savior tells us how punishment overtook this wicked and cruel man, who – after receiving mercy – ought surely to have shown mercy to others. And finally, He concludes the parable with the impressive words, “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”

We give thanks to You, O tender Shepherd of our souls, for the loving care that You expend upon each and every one of Your little ones! Amen.

painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1895  |  Wikimedia Commons

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painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1895  |  Wikimedia Commons