Least in the Kingdom

  • Dec. 20, 2018
  • #9559

Staying in God’s Word keeps us from rushing into sin, and from encouraging others to sin by our example.

What does it mean to be least in the kingdom?

Hi, I'm Joni Eareckson Tada and I know you’ve read that Bible verse many times. It’s from Matthew chapter 5, the 19th verse. It says, “He who breaks 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 practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” I’ll tell you what, that is a verse that’ll jar your sensibilities. We get this idea that heaven is all things egalitarian, everyone on the same plane, everyone enjoying the same capacity for joy. But Jesus says that there will be people in heaven who will be called least in that kingdom. Just who are these people? Well, I'm in no position to judge anyone, but I will tell you the story of a man. I’ll call him Herb.

Herb had served as a leader in Christian ministry for years; so I was stunned when he confided to my husband that he was planning to leave his wife. He said to Ken, "You know, Martha and I have lived separate lives for years; the kids are grown, why not? It won't really hurt anybody." Then Herb thought a minute and added, "Sure, I feel bad about it and I wish it would have worked, but I know in the long run that, well, God will forgive me."

When Ken told me all this, my heart broke. Yes, the God of the Bible is full of tender mercies and if, in the long run, Herb leaves his wife for someone else, God may well forgive him. But here’s the thing: he will not be the same Herb. Charging ahead into sin while betting on God's forgiveness is a prescription for disaster. He will break his marriage vows - the commandment to love and honor his wife - and through his example he will be teaching others to do the same. And the Savior warns us, that those who break the least commandment and teach others, by their behavior, to do the same, well, Herb will diminish his capacity for service in God's kingdom. 

Young couples are struggling to stay together, and when older couples throw in the towel for someone else, I fear these young couples will lose their resolve when they hear about Herb. I grieve to think that this man may well be relegated to the least ranks of the kingdom of heaven. Oh my goodness, the cosmic stakes are just too high for any of us to risk that. C’mon Herb, why gamble away your eternal state? Is escape from your dead-end marriage worth being demoted to least in the kingdom of heaven?

Friend, this is such an important lesson. If you sin willfully, of course, yes, God will forgive you when you confess and repent. But if you willingly choose sin even knowing it’s wrong, then you are forfeiting way, way too much. People are watching you. And the book of Numbers chapter 32 warns, “Be sure, your sins will find you out.” And anyone who breaks God's commandments and models to others to do the same may well experience a disappointing demotion in heaven. That alone should send shivers down our spine! Don't forget, we teach by not only our words, but by our example. So think of the people who will observe you today and your actions. Will you unwittingly be encouraging them to join you in disobeying God? Hey friend, don’t be unwittingly encouraging others to join you in a disobedient path. And to help set a new course of trust and obedience in the coming year, I’m going to encourage you one more time to stop by joniandfriends.org and download the chronological Bible reading schedule for the New Year. Because nothing will keep you on the straight and narrow like staying in God's Word.

© Joni and Friends

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