If you’d like to join us in our journey reading all the way through the Bible this year, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll be glad to email back a copy of the reading plan we are using.
Muhammad Ali was famous for saying “I am the greatest!” It came out of his 1964 media speech just before his championship boxing match with Sonny Liston. And for anyone who ever watched him box – that was no idle boast. At least when it came to boxing. In that time. And in that place. But in time, “the greatest” himself fell to someone else. Being great, at least in one’s own sense of themselves is not unique to Muhammad Ali, other athletes, business moguls or any other group. And as our text in Luke 9:46-48 demonstrates – even the apostles themselves. Maybe you’d like a little of that greatness for yourself. Then again, how we define greatness for ourselves or others may need to be informed by how God defines it. We’ll look at that a bit today on Through the Word in 2020. I’m your host, Reid Ferguson.
Today’s reading assignments are brief. The passage already mentioned in Luke, 2 Thessalonians 3:16-18 and Ezra 9-Nehemiah 1. And it is this idea of greatness I’d like to examine a bit more.
All of us has some conception of ourselves. For better or worse. And a good measure of how we see ourselves is usually tied to some sense of how we compare to others – either close at hand or afar. We all want to think well of ourselves. In Billy Preston’s powerful song “Music’s My Life” he sings: “God promised to exalt me, if I’d put Him first. I may not be the best around, but I’m surely, not the worst.” So it is Jesus found the apostles arguing among themselves – which one of them was the greatest. I wouldn’t throw any stones here. For while we might not argue that way out loud, we still probably share something of Billy Preston’s sentiment inwardly.
Jesus knew the reasoning of their hearts. And so He addressed it. He took a child, a young child – let’s say, a non-contributor who could bring nothing to the table in serving Christ or the cause of the kingdom, and put him by His side. And He said “whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives Him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”
Well, that was quite the upset. Non-contributors can be great? Non-performers? Those who can DO nothing of measurable value can be great? How?
First, by not having their own agenda.
Little children don’t have grandiose plans. Big dreams. They aren’t out to accomplish independent grand goals – they haven’t thought that far yet. They are wholly at the mercy of their parent’s plans , goals and agendas.
Those who would be great in the Kingdom of God are those who have set aside their own goals and ambitions to be given over to Christ’s. It is not to say they don’t have desires of their own, but they subjugate those desires to His. They don’t need to steer the ship. To get God to sign on their program. They naturally assume they will go along with Him rather than getting Him to go along with them. That’s greatness.
Second, little children aren’t, and don’t pretend to be self-dependent. They look to their parents to provide for them. There is a right and winsome assumption of care. They don’t think about where food comes from, or how money is earned to clothe, house and feed them. That’s adult stuff. There is a native kind of trust. They know who to look to for their needs. And they believe – without even being cognizant of doing it – that those things will be provided. And utterly without reference to what others might or might not have.
It is the least, the least self-motivated and the least self-dependent who are the greatest in His Kingdom.
May I learn to be so great.
God willing, we’ll be back tomorrow.