Scripture: Matthew 18:1-9
Key verse: (1) “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
Reflection: Why did the disciples ask Jesus this question? Were they vying for position or looking for a reward? It’s such a human question. We ask it in all kinds of ways in our competitive world. Jesus answered them by calling a little child to stand among them. Then he told them they must become like children – vulnerable, powerless, and humble. Think about how many babies, puppies and kittens we “ooh” and “aah” over because of this kind of innocence. We might not think of children this way, especially when we are up all night with a crying baby or a temperamental toddler, but there is something precious about the purity we see in little children. We know what they can’t know yet, that the world can be a dangerous and unforgiving place. Jesus invited the disciples and invites us to be innocent, like children. This is a powerful (and challenging) metaphor to describe true greatness. Jesus warns the disciples that the desire to be the greatest can lead to sin and the harm of others. When I reflect on those who are truly great in this world (not the kingdom of heaven) I am struck by the humility and grace by which they accept the world’s praise. The true “greats” don’t take themselves so seriously that they are consumed by gaining position and power. In the kingdom of heaven there is no good, better, best. Jesus invites us to be powerless, living lives of wise innocence remembering that there is no competition in the kingdom of heaven because only God is the greatest.
Prayer: Patient God, thank you for reminding us that being great is not about position or power, but rather humility, compassion, and self-discipline. Give us the will to become like little children – innocent, open and kind. Help us to love others the way you love us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Author: Deborah Conner
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].