Chapter eighteen contains the fourth of five teaching sections in Matthew, and it is specifically focused on how we treat one another.
It opens with Jesus calling a child to him and telling his disciples they must become like a child to enter the kingdom of heaven. Then, Jesus talks about how we treat “little ones.”
It is a popular interpretation to have this section speak of how we treat children. But while Jesus would not object to his words being applied to children here, they are not the subject. The subject of Jesus’ teaching are those who enter the kingdom of heaven, those who become “like” little children, those who become his disciples, Christians.
Two of Jesus’ comments in chapter eighteen has been the occasion for much interpretive hogwash. Jesus says: “ if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven,” as if by collective agreement, we can bind God to do our bidding. The next text follows: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” and has been interpreted that a worship assembly must be composed of two or three people. Neither passage deals with these matters. These words are spoken in the context of brethren resolving their differences. Jesus says that anytime brethren, in efforts of reconciliation, come together, God is there and will empower the agreements so that they will be successful. This approach stays true to the context and makes the matter of reconciliation incredibly important.
But couldn’t you use those passages to apply to these other things as well?
A passage may not be used to teach what it was not intended to teach and intent is determined by context.