Thursday, March 18

The greatest

Scripture: Numbers 35-36, Psalm 33, Matthew 18

Matthew 18:1–5 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 

2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.


The question of who was the greatest among them was a recurring issue for the disciples, and they bring it up again here.  The disciples saw themselves as rivals for power and position.  Jesus begins His answer by saying, “Unless you change—unless you turn.”  They were going the wrong direction.  They were completely off the mark.  

Jesus’ answer was counter-cultural.  No one would have chosen a child as the model of greatness.  In fact, the one quality about children that Jesus emphasizes here is their humility—a quality that was not widely appreciated at that time.

In what ways are children humble?  (The Greek word here refers to little children—think pre-school.). They are not concerned about appearances and social status.  They are dependent and trusting.  They are not concerned with personal ambition, power or prestige.  They lack any sense of self-promotion.

So the disciples’ very question betrays them.  


Today, I’ll be in several group settings where it’s always tempting to be engaged in image management.  Instead of trying to be the hero, I want to consciously try to be a hero-maker.  Instead of self-promotion, I want to consciously work at promoting others.  I want the words of John the Baptist to be true of me today: “He must increase, I must decrease.”  The “he” or “she” are those I’m with.  Help others succeed.  The way to be the greatest in the kingdom is to be focused on helping others be the greatest!

Prayer: Lord, help me!  I confess that I’m far too concerned with my own image (like the disciples).  Help me today to be like a child, to humble myself and take the lowly position, and work to help others succeed.