1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
The disciples were concerned about who among them was greatest. They did not question their ability to enter the kingdom of God, but where they would fit in the hierarchy of the kingdom when they got there. Jesus response was to call them to question who they were depending on in order to even enter the kingdom. A child depends on their father, an adult depends on themselves. To approach God like a child is to recognize our own helplessness, and to cry out to the one we call father. The disciples recognized God as a king. A king has dignitaries, officials, and officers. They respected God because of His authority, and what that authority could do for them. God wants us to look at Him as our father, and recognize that He does not issue declarations, He loves us, He does not write decrees, He provides all we have need of.
An iconic photo of the Kennedy administration is of John Jr. playing under his father’s desk. He doesn't see his father as the leader of the free world and look for recognition and opportunity in his father’s position. He simply rests in the fact that his father is there and able to keep him from worry or want to the point that he can play under the desk in the oval office without a second thought. Oh, to live life with that view of God, and with that view of ourselves. On this passage New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg writes “All who are confident in their own kingdom standing should take stock. Is our confidence that of a child trusting the goodness of our Father, or is our confidence in ourselves?” Jesus' own statement at the close of these verse that the one who does not approach like a child should cause us to seriously pause, and reevaluate how much we evaluate our own abilities, and how much we value the ability of God to save us. How do you see God, and how do you see yourself in light of who God is to you?