Who hasn't wanted to be the best at something? Who hasn't wanted to have some ability or quality that is better than everyone else? Many of us have grown up with the dream of being the world's greatest - standing on the podium of life, holding up the gold medal. While watching the Olympic Games, with athletes proudly displaying their earned medals, I felt the familiar rush of pride for our country's athletes and I couldn't help but imagine myself in that place of honor.
God can turn everything into a teaching moment and has perfect timing. At the time I was enthralled by watching the Games, I found an interesting passage in chapter eighteen of the book of Matthew in the bible. In this Scripture passage, the disciples asked Jesus about who was the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. I think there was a little competition going on between these men and they were sizing each other up as to spiritual power. Jesus taught that greatness in the Kingdom of Heaven is very different from the greatness they had in mind.
Placing a little child in front of them, Jesus said, "Unless you turn from your sins and become like this little child, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven." This must have made the disciples think. They had shown in other instances that they held the common view that children were not as valuable as adults. They tried to discourage people from bringing children to bother the Master. Now, Jesus was telling them that they had to become like that child.
Let's look at the child's position in life. He was small and insignificant and he knew it. He had to look up to practically everyone. He knew that he couldn't live on his own. He depended on his father for love, care, protection and direction. He was obedient and would follow his father's wishes without question because he trusted him.
Jesus went on to say that if they received one of the little ones (now meaning any disciple) in his name, they were receiving him. Our response to one of Jesus' disciples is a response to Jesus. Looking down on someone or treating them as an inferior is treating Jesus in the same way. He went on to teach that anyone who tempts another to sin is committing a grave offense. Jesus knows and loves all of his children and is concerned with the welfare of each one. Jesus wants his followers to love his children in the same way.
The greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven is the one who serves without applause. Being recognized as the greatest in this world, for our physical abilities, or our intelligence, or even our good deeds, will not warrant the same honor in heaven. The one who is humble, honors others, puts others before himself, and lives to follow Jesus, will be the one who is called great in Heaven.
It's okay to work hard at being the best in my field, but God is concerned with what is in my heart and that shows in how I view Jesus and how I treat others.
Read Matthew 18 and Matthew 20:16.
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