At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
What makes a person great? How do you measure greatness? Do you need fame? Fortune? Status? Some would say that the key is arrogance. In sports and business people tend to think that self-confidence isn’t enough to be truly great. You need to be a little cocky. You need to have some swagger. You need to believe you are the greatest before you can become the greatest.
Muhammad Ali certainly believed that. Consider this quote from the man many consider to be the greatest boxer of all time. "I'm not the greatest, I'm the double greatest. Not only do I knock 'em out, I pick the round."
Thankfully God measures greatness differently than our world does. In fact, He turns our concept of greatness on its ear. Jesus says that if you want to be considered truly great by God, then you must humble yourself. In other words, the way up is down. Humble yourself before God and He will make you great.
Jesus gives us a picture of what this looks like, a little child. Specifically, Jesus draws attention to the child’s humble standing. In first century Jewish culture children were the most powerless members of society. They had no status and no power or privileges. They were completely dependent on their parents' love for provision. (Keener, Craig S., The Bible Background Commentary on the New Testament, p.93.) Yet, Jesus says we must become like this if we hope to be saved and if we want to be great by God's measure.
So how do you approach God? Do the words "humble," "dependent" and "powerless" accurately describe your demeanor before the Lord? If not, then you have a pride problem. The Christian philosopher Alexander Solzhenitsyn said, “Pride grows in the human heart like lard on a pig.” Pride is a sneaky sin. In my experience the more you think you aren’t proud the more likely it is that you are!
God hates pride! Scripture tells us that He opposes the proud (James 4:6). It says that He pays them back in full (Psalm 31:23). It even says that God detests the proud and ensures they are punished (Proverbs 16:5). So what must we do?
Humble yourself before God. Come to Him seeking forgiveness of your sin. Serve others, especially His church! Jesus said “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35). Begin obeying His commands. When you read His Word allow it to correct you instead trying to find some error in it. When you pray, seek God's help like a small child would. You should even fast from time-to-time to remind yourself how great your need for God is.
Isaiah 66:2 says, “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word." Is this verse doesn't describe your heart today, then humble yourself before the Lord and ask for forgiveness.
For further consideration...
- More than 16 times in Scripture God says that He exalts the humble but casts down the proud. - 2 Samuel 22:28, Psalm 18:27, Psalm 107:39-41, Psalm 147:6, Proverbs 3:34, Proverbs 11:2, Proverbs 16:18, Proverbs 18:12, Zephaniah 3:11-12, Proverbs 29:23, Matthew 23:12, Luke 1:51-52, Luke 14:11, Luke 18:14, James 4:6, I Peter 5:5.
- Consider how Jesus humbled Himself- Mark 10:44-45 & Philippians 2:5-11.