Matt. 18:1-11 – Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven
What an amazing question to ask the Messiah. I have been away from church for quite some time so I guess I’ve forgotten how petty we can be about our “place” in the greater scheme of things. In a certain way I can see how childish the disciples are being with one another and as one who has worked with children for ten years I’m curious about the Master’s take on children.
Jesus answers the disciples’ question about who is the greatest by turning the cultural definition of “greatest” on it’s head and using the lowest member of society as the definition of greatest. A child is dependent and among adults knows his/her place of dependence and so is quiet and respectful, all the things that are quite different from the way “great men” tend to behave with one another. It’s not the one who can boast the most accomplishments (even if they’re done in the name of service), but the one who quietly serves the others whom Jesus says is the greatest among them.
Of course in our society the whole thing is screwed up and children today are hardly humble or they grow up openly only thinking about themselves. It seems to be most definitely “every man for himself” with children and adults all loudly clamoring for attention and their “rights.” And among themselves children are ruthlessly boastful and cruel. I don’t think that Jesus was unaware of these human traits or that selfish children is something unique to our current society. But the point is how we treat one another and the fact that our normal “boastful” measures of greatness matter little. What really counts is our quiet service towards one another and the Kingdom of God. JBB 01/28/2005