Who is the Greatest?

I keep track of most of the major sports and I listen to several sports talk shows on a weekly basis. One question that keeps coming up time and time again in these conversations is: “Who is the greatest?”The question is often thrown out for debate between analysts and retired athletes as they decipher who the greatest players in the different major sports are. No matter how long it is talked about it just seems that a final decision can never be reached.

Everyone has their own opinion and bias and thus it’s tough for all to come to a consensus on such a topic. The bible tells us that the disciples of Jesus debated among themselves about who was the greatest among them. They, of course, were thinking about pride, self-praise and possibly getting the highest position alongside Jesus in a Kingdom they thought would be physical in nature (it wasn’t). Jesus however ventured to answer their question by making a rather striking illustration:

“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” (Matt. 18:1-4). 

It’s really interesting that Jesus’ answer is the exact opposite of what the disciples were thinking. They believed greatness meant being praised by men, receiving high positions among men and besting one another in knowledge wisdom and action. Jesus instead put a child in front of them and made it clear that if one desired to be great they must become like such a child. Someone might say, “what’s so great about a child anyway?” Children are the essence of innocence, but they are also very helpful. Have you ever noticed that young kids are always itching to do something for people or to help in some way even though they may not know how to do what needs to be done?

Likewise, Jesus wants all men (mankind) everywhere to humble themselves and become like children. We must strive to be a servant (See Jn. 13:1-15) to all and we mustn’t make it about ourselves. The moment we make anything about us we have failed to understand what it means to be great. Greatness in God’s eyes consists of being of a broken and contrite spirit and seeking constantly to be holy as He is holy (Isa. 66:2). This was what Jesus wanted His disciples to know and it is what we all need to know and practice. Anyone can be the greatest in the eyes of God if we do His will.