At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Matt. 18:1
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. Matt 18:2-5
Children generally are, in their natural state, humble, lovable, eager to learn and a joy to teach. Jesus was using this example of the little ones to teach these qualities to His followers, and all of us. Maybe not the smartest, best-looking, richest, etc., but the most teachable in His words and His ways, that was His goal. So they, as they grew up, would exemplify in their lives the qualities of those who follow Jesus. The most eloquent speakers with the most winning ways are not necessarily the best emissaries for our Lord. They tickle our ears, impress us with their learning, but sometimes they leave the heart of Christ’s teaching out, thus deleting the sincerity and truth of His message. Either the humility and sincerity do not shine through, or the life being lived does not reflect the Master.
Children are generally fresh, pure, honest little souls who love unashamedly, and Christ is seeking adults who have kept those qualities as they grew up. There is not a whole lot of complexity to loving God and keeping His commandments. And here we are reminded that the qualities of sincerity and humility have to be kept pure in our lives if we would be followers of Jesus. In these verses He is eloquently warning of this pitfall as we go from childhood to maturity.
May God help us keep the ability to be childlike in our obedience to our Lord.