Matthew 18:1 About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?
Humans always want to know who is the best in the land. Who is the best looking, who has the most power, who has the most money. There is always a search going on to help us be the best. Isn’t it interesting that there is never a quest for humility, yet, Jesus said that is the person who is the greatest in the Kingdom of God.
In my life, I have found that sometimes who we say is the best really isn’t … they’ve just been told they are the best. Public perception and ego play a big role in being the best. Of course, life is never static … it is always moving and that means changes. Even if you are the best at something, time will take it away from you and it will go to another. I don’t want to take anything away from people who are great at what they do, but being the best is always temporary.
In the Bible, King Saul was the best in the land for a time. His status caught up with him and he decided he no longer had to live by God’s rules. Being the best in the land taught him that he had privileges. That is what happens, doesn't it? The best always seems to get more privileges than the rest of us. If you are the best in the land, you garner greater respect and are desired more than the ordinary.
So, it is no surprise then that the disciples wanted to know who was the greatest, the best in heaven. Was their question more about the competition between them, or was it just curiosity to see what Jesus would say? Regardless of their motives, Jesus laid it out to them that the best and the greatest in the Kingdom of God do not belong to skill, personality, giftedness, or power … the greatest in the Kingdom of God is he who is humble.
I don’t think humility is ever discussed as a qualifying factor for leadership, a job requirement, or a quality for job performance. We always want the person or persons we follow to have the quality of persistence, a character built upon excellence, and a knowledge base that is the best in the land. Now, I can’t argue against such characteristics, yet each one of those characteristics is the same one that makes life miserable for those who must follow. Persistence is a great characteristic when you need to get things done. However, persistence tends to wear people out and the expectations can be overwhelming. A character of excellence is also one of those qualities that will make things right all the time, yet perfection is the natural result and as we know, God is the only one able to achieve perfection. Having knowledge is a great quality when it comes to a world that is built upon it. Yet, knowledge can place people in a category of the elite, the powerful, and the all-knowing class of humans at the top of the food chain.
Yet in all of these categories, humility is not usually a trait that comes alongside these attributes of what we long for in our human experience. Again, it is the standard of this world that places standards on performance, knowledge, and competency. The Kingdom of God has standards not acknowledged by most forward-thinking and progressive people:
These are a few of the characteristics of the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. God's standards of being the best in the land are just the opposite of what we experience in this world. God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble:
James 4:6 And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
So, when the world seems to be building itself up and glorifying its progress by its standards, remember they are not the eternal standards where it really counts. Everything in this world is temporary, but how you live your life in humility with a focus on God will yield a permanent reward in His Kingdom.
Challenging the Culture with Truth … Larry Kutzler