Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
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.)