Friday, March 27, 2009

Greatest in the Kingdom?

Ames Room illusion by Mattox

Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Matt 18:4

What do you think this verse means?  I have to admit, it gives me a little trouble.

First off, "the greatest" can't be exclusive to one person, because more than one person humbles himself in this way.  The word “Whoever” applies to anybody and everybody.  And the verse doesn’t say “whoever humbles himself the most will be the greatest.”  It’s just “whoever humbles himself.”  But how can more than one person be “the greatest?”

Also, Heaven isn’t going to be the kind of place where people compete against one another to be the greatest.  Nothing would be more prideful than "humbling oneself" in order to “out-humble” the next guy and be greater than he is in Heaven (see Mark 9:34-35). 

So what does this mean?  How can anyone be “greatest in the kingdom?”  And how can anyone pursue that by humility?

I don’t know, but I have an idea.  I think that being "the greatest" is not relative to other people, but relative to our standing individually with God.  It's where we fall on a continuum of what we could have been versus what we turned out to be.  True, others will be further along or further behind on their continuum than I will be, but my eyes will not be on them in prideful comparison.

Does that make sense?  What do you think?

(This photo was taken in an “Ames Room,” a specially-designed room that creates an optical illusion of great size differences between people of equal height.  I chose it because it reminds me of exaggerated pride or false humility…two different ways of falsely comparing ourselves with others.)


Tami Boesiger said...

Whoa, thinking a little deep for a Friday, aren't we, Betsy?

I can't say I completely understand this verse, but I don't need to in order to apply it. My part in it is to be humble as we are instructed in Philippians 2:3, ". . .in humility consider others better than yourselves."

I can do that. Whether it makes me great or greatest doesn't matter. Being humble is a command and all I need to know.

karin said...

It's never good to compare ourselves to another. Excellent example! I have found it easier to willingly humble myself, rather than go merrily along high on myself and then have the Lord send something or someone else along to humble me - which He will do because He loves me!

Mary Moss said...

Wow! Another great post, Betsy. I love the intellectual depth of your posts:-)

I hope you'll stop by I have something for you there that I hope you will accept.

Also, would you mind sending me your email address?

Cathy said...

Wow! This may be your shortest blog, but it is meaty. I believe your viewpoint of being compared to Jesus, vs. our sinful brothers and sisters is so true. I don't need to worry about them, because ultimately it will be just me and the Lord holding me accountable for my choices. It is a command to be humble and one that is easier to keep, than to have someone else call you out on it.
Thanks for stimulating the thought process on these verses.

Esthermay said...

I agree. Much truth in Brevity!
It's all about our individual standing before Almighty God.
I can't tell you how much "out-humbling" goes on in our church. It is riDICuLouS!
Scripture demands nothing of us but to examine our OWN hearts before Him -- then we edify and teach. NOTHING about "working" at being humble. that comes with the heart change.
GREAT thoughts.

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