God cares for every Christian more than you know

God cares for every Christian more than you know

Matthew 18 is a chapter with a theme: Jesus is speaking about what the Christian community should be like. And the fundamental thing we have to understand is that our stance should be one of humility. When we think of others in the Christian community, we are to realise that we are like little children. We are all dependant on God for our salvation. Even the most capable and respected among us are forgiven sinners, so we need to view others in the church as our brothers and sisters, our equals in God’s sight.

A little later on in the chapter we come across this verse:

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 18:10 ESV)

This verse is made up of a command and an explanation. The command bit is straight-forward: do not despise one of these little ones. By ‘little ones’, Jesus means any Christian, especially Christians who are weak and insignificant in the eyes of the world. We must not despise, or look down upon, any other Christian. There should be no ranking of importance or feelings of superiority in the church.

Well, you might wonder, why not? Are not some more gifted, or some more useful for the kingdom? Jesus’ explanation does not rank people based on their usefulness but on how God sees them.

It is the second part of v10 that is the controversial section here. Much ink has been spilt on this verse over church history, and whatever I write here will surely be argued against by others. The controversy surrounds the phrase “their angels”. Angels are mentioned often in the Bible as mighty messengers of God, but this is the only place where angels are said to be assigned to believers. (Some think that this is not referring to angels but to the spirits of the dead, and a short blog post is no place to explore this or to court controversy!)

So let’s cut through the controversy here. The overall message of the second half of v10 is simple enough. These ‘little ones’ are of massive importance to God the Father. Their angels always see the face of God the Father in heaven; this means that God the Father is taking a special interest in every single believer. They have access to the Father, and God cares for each of the ‘little ones’.

Did you hear the threat implied there? Why should we not despise one of these little ones? It is because God is looking after them. They are precious to God, so how dare we treat them badly or think we are superior to any other Christian!

Every Christian matters to God. This is underlined in the 99 sheep and the one which wandered away illustration that immediately follows this verse. Every sheep, every little one, every believer is incredibly precious to God. This has all kinds of implications for ourselves and our churches, but let me raise just a couple:

  1. If you are a Christian, whoever you are, you belong. You are important to God and to the church family. I know that many need to hear this. Some think they are too shy, or they don’t have impressive spiritual gifts, or they are socially awkward. None of us came to be in God’s family due to our skills and abilities. We are all forgiven sinners. Christ died for you, and you matter to God, even if the world doesn’t think you are significant.
  2. We cannot just focus on the potential leaders and put-together people in the church. Some church growth books tell us to do this; we need to spend all our time with FAT people, people who are faithful, available, and teachable. That might make sense sociologically, but Jesus is calling for more than this in Matthew 18. We need to spend time with those who are messy, whose lives are complicated, who are dealing with sin and its effects right now.

In a world that excludes people because they are not fashionable, or because they are difficult, or because they struggle with mental health or messy relationships, Matthew 18 is refreshing. Jesus cares deeply for his people, whoever they might be.