At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 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. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! [Matthew 18:1-7 ESV]
We are all teachers, by what we do, say, think and feel. Everything we do teaches others about what we think and feel regarding God and His Son. Nothing is hidden from God. Though we are the finest actor who has ever lived, able to fool crowds, even to the point of convincing ourselves we are what we are not, God knows who we truly are.
We want to control God, our world, our relationships our own lives. Anyone who thinks they do not want control is either lying to themselves and others, a self-righteous dishonesty, or deluded. Not only do we want to control God, or at least wrench control from Him, but we want those around us to think well of us, respect us, or fear us.
One of the hazards of teaching is allowing others to put us on a pedestal. Every teachers faces this hazard sometimes succumbing to its subtle influences, which tugs and pulls them into thinking more highly of themselves than they ought. This is a form of control. Remember, everyone is a teacher even if they do not think they are. We teach more by actions and motivations than words.
In Matthew 5:19 Jesus states flatly, without pretense, everyone who teaches about God’s will is either thought of by God as great in the kingdom or is placed as the least in the kingdom. His criteria for judgment is profound.
Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. i [Matthew 5:19 ESV]
“Relaxes” means to loose, melt, or put off. Those who live according to the will of God, to whom they belong, teach others by example how to live with and for Him. Jesus’ words almost imply there are levels in heaven where some can earn greater prestige in this life. We know nothing we do carries merit in God’s eyes. We cannot earn our citizenship or place in eternity. This does not mean God will not lift up those who live righteously. He is preparing us for eternity. This does mean our obedience to Him is important for the here and now and for eternity. We are commanded to live according to truth given to us in nature, the evidence of God’s work, through His Word, Jesus Christ, and through the teaching and direction of the Holy Spirit. We are not partners with Him but obedient servants of His, seen as adopted children.
In order to teach truth the person must be filled with truth, understand how truth works and how it affects every facet of life. Learning to recognize truth is more important than recognizing sin, or a lie or ungodliness. This means learning to test all things against truth, even the motivations and attitudes of the heart.
We cannot judge greatness in the kingdom by the standards of the world. Being great in the kingdom of heaven means sacrificing the world’s standards and living according to God’s, even when it brings persecution.
Jesus’ disciples wanted to know who was the greatest in the kingdom, obviously wondering which one of them would fill the spot. How arrogant. They were standing in the presence of God, the King of the kingdom, and they had the audacity to ask such a question. But, Jesus did not come to exalt Himself but to take upon Himself the sentence of death for all. He placed a child in front of them and told them who the greatest was. All who enter the kingdom are the greatest.
Then He warned them. Since all you do, all you think, all you feel, all which motivates you, is taught to all around you, especially children, who by their very innocence (though they are the greatest of sinners) love God, be mindful and aware of how you are living. They will copy you. You will be held accountable. You’re best practice is to know God, not just intellectually but intimately, with your whole person. We are not citizens of the kingdom of the world but of heaven. As His servants we do and by doing teach others to do His will.