“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.
“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.
When we left off last time, Jesus was using a little child as an illustration of the greatest citizen of the Kingdom of heaven; in this passage, the “little one” transitions into the metaphor of sheep which represents someone in the Kingdom. Verse 10 is the transitional verse; we must not disdain or “despise” one of these “little ones”.
What this means is that we must never have an attitude that would devalue anyone, for they are precious, sacred really, in God’s sight. The reason given is that they have an angel in heaven with direct access to the Father. Unfortunately, this concept isn’t developed here into a “doctrine” and we are left to figure out exactly what Jesus was referring to, and the result is that there are many ideas on this subject. The old Jewish tradition has a complex doctrine on angels; angels are directly associated with the nation of Israel. In the New Testament, angels are associated with individual churches in Revelation 2-3, and are referred to as “ministering spirits” by the author of Hebrews. This particular verse (18:10) is the one cited by those who believe in the concept of “guardian angels”. However you might view this, one thing is certainly clear; if we devalue our brother or sister, our action will come to the attention of the Father in heaven.
Jesus goes on in the remaining verses to underscore this using the metaphor of a shepherd and a wandering sheep. In the parable, a sheep wanders off from the flock, and the shepherd leaves the flock to find the lost sheep. When he finds the sheep he is filled with joy for the lost sheep, having more joy over finding the lost sheep than he does for the remainder that didn’t wander off. The message is clear enough; God does not want a single one of His children to perish, and He is concerned with even the least of His children. If we are the cause of another to fall away or wander from the “flock” God will not be amused.
On a practical level, there is quite a lot for us to think about here, in fact, there is some sober reflection that we should engage in on this subject. Do we treat our brother or sister as sacred? Are we attentive when they are hurting? Do we demand that others agree with us on every issue? Do we pass judgment on the circumstances of others as a means to avoid reaching out to them?
I suppose that we can add quite a few questions to this list of things we should ask ourselves, but the bottom line is: Do we treat others as God’s sacred “little ones”?