These small group studies of Matthew contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, verse by verse commentary, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Matthew 18:1-11 Inductive Bible Study – Discussion Questions and Verse by Verse Commentary


  1. Be like a child (1-6)
  2. Woe to the one who is the cause of temptation (7-9)
  3. Parable of the lost sheep (10-14)

I. Be like a child (1-6)

Discussion Questions

What do you think motivated the disciples to ask this question?
Is this the first time they have discussed “the greatest” question or are there other times?
How did Jesus deal with this issue in other passages?
Why did Jesus use a child to show them what being “the greatest” means?
In what ways is a child humble?
In what ways does a child express pure faith or dependence on others?
What lesson or lessons did He want them to learn?
What does verse 5 tell us about whether or not children can be saved? When should a parent begin to teach his child the things of God? What would you say to someone who says, “you should wait until a child can decide for himself before teaching him the Bible?”
How might adults cause children to sin?

Cross References

Luke 9:46 – The disciples argue about who is greatest.

Luke 22:24 – The disciples argue about who is greatest.

Mark 9:33-37 – The disciples argue about who is the greatest.

Mark 10:35-45 – John and James’ mother asks if they can sit at Jesus’ right hand.

James 4:6 – God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Luke 14:11 – Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Verse by Verse Commentary

  1. The disciples here were asking the wrong questions – This question shows what was on their hearts. As group of 12, they were ambitious and vying for a higher position. John’s and Jame’s mother even came to Jesus to ask for the top position of sitting one on each side of Him. They had given up a lot to follow Jesus, but it seems that they hoped this would in some way make them greater and let them receive more honor. We can learn a lot about people from the questions which they ask. If the disciple’s heart attitude was focused on becoming more humble or more loving, their questions would have reflected this. Application: Let our heart attitudes be focused on the right thing, becoming more like Christ. If we are focused on this our speech and our questions will reflect this.
  2. Jesus answered them mildly – Although their question was a very bad question, Jesus did not get angry or rebuke them. He was patient. And He answered them kindly and graciously. For the Bible study leaders here, sometimes someone in your group may ask some strange or weird questions. Perhaps you think the questions are not reasonable or do no show a very accurate understanding of the Bible. Perhaps you think the question is bad. Firstly, it is likely not as bad as this question was! Secondly, we can learn from Jesus that as long as the question is sincere (in other words they are really seeking for the answer), then we should still answer them graciously and patiently. Publicly chastising them for a poor question will not help their spiritual walk, but will instead discourage them from asking questions in the future. And if they don’t ask questions, you won’t know what they are thinking or how to help them.
  3. Jesus uses a child as an object lesson for the disciples. These were men who didn’t even let the children come to Jesus on a separate occasion. Can you imagine what was going through their minds when Jesus takes a child and essentially says, “This is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” The point is one does not enter heaven by trying to be great. He enters only by realizing he is not great. A person can enter God’s kingdom if he admits that Jesus is great and he is not. Children are far from perfect. But they are generally speaking quite humble. Pride is not one of the sins that young children struggle with the most. My children quickly and easily admit their own sin. What is more, children do have very strong faith. When they believe something, it is quite hard to change their minds. And they are dependent on others. A child believes his parent’s word. A child relies on his parents for everything. He doesn’t question where the next meal is coming from. Adults often cannot sleep at night because they are worried and stressed. But children generally do not. They sleep “like a baby.” Why? They have a feeling of safety and they rely on their parents to care for them, never considering that their parents will not or can not. That is faith. (The above assumes that they have good parents who do actually care for them.)

Point #2 – Children can be saved. They can enter the kingdom of heaven. Parents have the responsibility to teach their children the things of God from a young age. The negative is that we should not in any way tempt a child or turn him off the path to follow Jesus. The positive implication is that we must do everything we can to help children follow the Lord.

We should raise our children to be disciples of Jesus – The disciples in other places indicated their thoughts that children were too young to really understand Jesus’ message or follow Him. I have heard the same kind of thinking. People have asked me questions like the following:

  • “Shouldn’t you refrain from unduly influencing your child?”
  • “Shouldn’t you let your child grow up first and make a decision by himself?”
  • “Can a child really understand the Bible?”

To answer these questions, we need look no farther than this passage. Jesus has answered them already. He said, “Unless you turn and become like children you will never enter the kingdom of God” The answer is very clear. Children can be part of the kingdom of God. Even more than that, in some ways they are the kingdom’s model citizens! This means that they can understand the Bible and the basic concepts inside and that “yes,” they should be taught it.

The world does not want us to teach our children the things of God. When the world says, “Wait to teach your child about the Bible until he grows up” what it means is, “Wait until we have finished brainwashing your child so that by the time you teach him the truth, he will not believe it or you anymore.”

Understand this very clearly. Jesus wants the children to go to Him. Satan does not. There is a huge battle for the minds and souls of our young ones. And Satan uses the world to try to prevent our children from coming to the Lord.

  • Schools brainwash our children with atheism, evolution, materialism, and relativism.The entire system is in direct opposition to the teaching of God’s Word. History is viewed through a secular lens and not through the lens of God’s hand working to direct His purposes. Science is viewed through an atheistic and evolutionary lens and not viewed through the lens of God’s perfect creation. Religion is considered to be a myth and for the superstitious and dumb. But at least the values taught will be good, right? How about sex education? The world’s idea of sex education is that everything is acceptable, just practice safe sex. Many US high schools, give out free condoms. For example in one year, DC schools handed out 200,000 condoms. Many other wrong values are taught to children. “Be who you are.” “Look out for number one.” “High test scores are the most important thing.” “Live and let live.” Do you think this is a new thing? It is not. Share on King Nebuchadnezzar’s brainwashing school.
  • Media also heavily influences children. According to a study in 2010, children in the US spent 7 hours and 38 minutes per day on digital media. This was seven years ago, so I can’t imagine it has gotten much better since then. This included about 4.5 hours on TV, 1.5 hours listening to music, and 1.5 hours playing video games. Cell phone usage and internet and social media have surely gone way up. I have met parents who tell me that they regularly use Ipads to babysit their children. When I asked why, the answer: “He cries if I don’t give it to him.” What are kids learning? Many music lyrics they listen to are horrific. Basically the power of television is what made homosexuality accepted around the world. Many tv shows or movies have very subtle messages inside. For example, I have noticed in many many movies that father’s trying to exercise authority over their children are portrayed as dumb, out of touch, and foolish, while the rebellious child proves to be right.
  • In China, this worldly mentality and brainwashing children culture effects public churches. How many children attend these churches?  How many children and teenagers are baptized? The churches answer to the government. And the government wants to mold them first. So public churches are basically not allowed to reach out to kids. They say, “They are not old enough to understand or make a decision.” But Jesus in Mark 10:13, “Permit them to come to Me.”

Parents, you have a very important responsibility before God to do everything you can to raise up your child to know the Lord. It is absurd to say that it is biased or unfair to children to teach them the Bible when they are young and can’t make decisions for themselves. Is it wrong to tell your child to wear more clothes so that he won’t catch a cold? Is it wrong to tell your child to eat more fruit because it is healthier than candy? Is it wrong to tell your child not to hit his friends? Or should you wait to teach your child these things until he is old enough to discern if they are true or not? Your job is to teach your children the truth. And it is never too early to start. See Proverbs 22:6.

Quote: All this that we here suffer is through you. You should have taught us the things of God, and did not. You should have restrained us from sin and corrected us, and you did not. You were the means of our original corruption and guiltiness, and yet you never showed any competent care that we might be delivered from it. Woe unto us that we had such carnal and careless parents; and woe unto you that had no more compassion and pity to prevent the everlasting misery of your own children.

One day you will stand before God and give an account for how you raised your children. The worst possible thing I can imagine as a father is if one of my children stand at the judgment and fail and are sentenced to an eternity in hell. What can I do so that they can be ready?

  1. Teach your children the Word from a young age. Make it simple. Make it clear. Make it fun. Then they will want it more. For example, I use different voices when reading the Bible to them, just like I do in other books. Sometimes we act out the stories. Sometimes I ask them to tell me the stories. Sometimes I ask them to color a picture of what they learned.
  2. Ask them lots of questions. Through questions you can make sure they understand. Through questions you can lead them to correctly understand the passage. It is more powerful and easier for them to remember than simply telling them all the answers.
  3. Talk about the things of God wherever you are. In addition to having times of family worship, you should make it a habit to talk with them at home or out on the way. By talking about the Word in natural settings they can better understand how to apply it to their everyday lives.
  4. Be a model for your children. Practice what you share with them.
  5. Do not rely on the pastor or Sunday School teacher or Christian school teacher. These can be good helpers. But it is your responsibility first and foremost.
  6. Pray. Pray.

II. Woe to the one who is the cause of temptation (7-9)

Discussion Questions

What does Jesus mean that “it is necessary for temptations to come?”
How about the second part of that phrase “woe to the one by whom temptations come?”
What does Jesus mean in verses 8-9?
Is he teaching physical mutilation?
What is the cause of sin in your life? Your eye? Your foot? Your hand?

Cross References

Proverbs 7:7-23 – Story of a young man who fell into temptation and didn’t take any counter-measures.

Matthew 26:41 – Watch and pray that you may not enter temptation.

Ephesians 6:11 – Put on the full armor of God.

Ephesians 4:27 – Give no opportunity to the devil.

1 Corinthians 6:18-20 – Flee!

Verse by Verse Commentary

  1. We should be very careful not to tempt others. Name some ways in which we might tempt others.
  • Parents who lose their tempers teach children that this is OK. And any other sins parents do is a bad model for our children.
  • Brothers or sisters who get too close to the opposite sex before marriage tempt them to lust.
  • Sisters who wear immodest clothing can be a source of temptation to men. Men likewise who get too close to women emotionally can be a source of temptation to them.
  • Any leader, teacher, politician, or parent who teaches worldly, ungodly values tempt those under them.
  1. We must hate sin and ruthlessly root out its source and deal with it. See below example for a story illustrating that it is not our body parts which cause us to sin. IF that body part causes you to sin it would be better to get rid of it. But considering that sin is in our minds, that is a big if.
  2. Activity – Proverbs 7:7-23. Split into groups (separate men and women). Give each group around ten minutes. First they should read the passage. Second, they should write down suggestions for this young man to deal with this temptation. Write down as many suggestions as you can think of. Come back together and discuss. Which suggestions are very practical for us now? Which ones should we adopt to protect ourselves from temptation? How do we deal with the source of temptation, our minds?

Imagine the example of a person who took these verses very literally. I have read about a man who has eaten over 29,000 big macs. Let’s say for example that this man becomes a believer and decides that Big Macs are unhealthy and not good for his health. He decides that this is a form of gluttony. So he decides to get rid of this sin. He uses hands to eat Big Macs, so he first cuts them off. But he still loves Big Macs. And he finds he doesn’t need hands to eat them. He can simply eat them directly from the table. But he has always gone to the restaurant. He can’t go there without feet, right? So he cuts off his feet. But some MacDonalds can deliver. And his phone is voice activated. And he still likes Big Macs. So he calls and has some delivered. He thinks he needs to stop it. So he blinds himself so that he won’t see and be tempted by them anymore. But he still remembers the taste and he keeps ordering them. Finally he cuts out his tongue so that he can’t taste them. Now he doesn’t eat them, but in his mind he still craves for them. He longs for them. It is all he thinks about. This story is of course a little bit absurd. But it shows the point that cutting off parts of our body will not solve the problem. What do you think this person should do?

Application: More importantly, think about a sin that you struggle with. What is the source of this temptation? How can you take it out by its root?

III. Parable of the lost sheep (10-14)

Discussion Questions

What is the reason Jesus said not to despise these little ones?
What did Jesus mean “their angels?” Is this teaching us that every person has a guardian angel?
What is the lesson from this parable?
What does this have to do with Jesus’ command in verse 10?
What practical lessons can we learn from this?

Cross References

Psalm 91:11 – He will send his angels to guard all your ways.

Daniel 6:22 – God sent angels to shut the lions’ mouths.

Hebrews 1:14 – Angels are ministering spirits.

2 Peter 3:8-10 – It is not God’s will that any should perish.

Verse by Verse Commentary

  1. These little ones refer not to actual children, but to believers who become “like children” in their faith and reliance upon God. They are children of God. We see the same idea in Matthew 10:42. Read.
  2. According to this passage, we should despise any of God’s followers because “their angels” behold God’s face in heaven. This verse does not necessarily indicate that each believer has at one angel assigned to them, but shows that many angels are assigned to believers as a whole. At some moments God may send many angels to help one particular person. Psalm 34:7 (they encamp around the godly.) At other moments, He may send them somewhere else. The point is that we are valuable enough that God sends angels to minister on our behalf. These angels have direct access to God in heaven and presumably even talk with God about our needs or give a “report” on our welfare. We then have immense value in God’s sight and that is the reason we should not look down on or despise any other believer. God values them enough to send angels to minister to them. Should not also love them?
  3. Piper says, “All angels serve for the good of all Christians all the time. They are agents of Romans 8:28.
  4. Calvin says, “The interpretation given to this passage by some commentators, as if God assigned to each believer his own angel, does not rest on solid grounds. For the words of Christ do not mean that a single angel is continually occupied with this or the other person; and such an idea is inconsistent with the whole doctrine of Scripture, which declares that the angels encamp around (Psalm 34:7) the godly, and that not one angel only, but many, have been commissioned to guard every one of the faithful. Away, then, with the fanciful notion of a good and evil angel, and let us rest satisfied with holding that the care of the whole Church is committed to angels, to assist each member as his necessities shall require.
  5. The focus is that angels serve others, not that angels serve Again that shows us the value God places on them and the value we should place on them too. These “titans” serving on our behalf are a reminder that we and our brothers and sisters in Christ are children of the King. We too have great rank and importance to God. A person should not focus on the angels and say “it is so great to believe because I have angels caring for me.” Instead he should say, “It is great to believe in God because I have a heavenly Father who loves and protects me. He will do everything that is good for me, even send His angelic guardians to serve on my behalf. My king is great!”
Study Matthew 18:12-20
Join Our Newsletter

We want to help you study the Bible, obey the Bible, and teach the Bible to others. We have therefore created a library of almost one thousand (and growing) inductive Bible studies, which are available for free. This takes a lot of time and hard work.

Help us continue to create Bible study resources by supporting Study and Obey for as little as $1.


Sharing is caring!