Daily Word

New in the faith | Matthew 18:5-6

5 And whoever receives one such child in My name, receives Me; 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to [ c ] sin, it is better for him that a [ d ] heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depths of the sea.

Matthew 18:5-6 (NASB)

More on the topic

Jesus is responding to the disciple’s question (argument) about who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. We can read between the lines (and look at the other gospel accounts – Mark 9:33-37 & Luke 9:46-48) to see that they were arguing among themselves who was the greatest. He told them to consider how to be great…by humbling ourselves and repentance.

New in the faith

He  now uses the child in front of Him to demonstrate how precious faith is and how we should protect and build up the faith of people who come to believe – just as we would a child. In John 15:1-17, Jesus describes Himself as the Vine and believers as branches. Left alone, new believers will likely die on the vine or at best, not produce fruit. So, receiving a new believer is very important in their spiritual growth.

And he who receives one of these little ones (child in the faith) receives Jesus in the process. This is one more example to add to the list given in the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46). Here, Jesus describes the final judgment. Those who enter eternal life are the ones that, by receiving the less capable, received Jesus. In v40 of that passage Jesus says, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of Mine, you did it for Me.”

Leading little ones astray

Then Jesus addresses the notion of leading astray a new believer. I can only imagine He is thinking about and referring to the teachings of the Jewish religious leaders. Later in Matthew, He talks about the conversion process they employ – that a new convert is worse off than before they were converted to this religion of the Jewish teachers (Matthew 23:15). 

A millstone was a huge circular, flat stone typically used to grind grain. It could weigh about 3,000 pounds, but smaller ones were also used. So having one tied to your neck meant you ain’t gonna survive. Jesus often used hyperbole to get attention and make His case – as He does here. The message is basically, the one who leads a new believer away from the truth of the gospel by teaching another one (like salvation by works) will suffer greatly. 


  • Do you know any relatively new believers or those who’ve not been instructed and discipled in the faith? Jesus commands us in Matthew 28:19 to make disciples. You don’t need to pray about it – other than asking God to lead and equip you. Just do it.
Millstone next to man. Image from thinktheology.org *

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