MANILA, PHILIPPINES. Arrogance, self-importance, and self-promotion seem to be at an all-time high in our culture. For a quick sample take a look at Donald Trump’s campaign speeches, Planned Parenthood’s abuse of unborn babies, and ESPN’s celebration of gender confusion. Unfortunately, many Christian preachers, bloggers, and commentators are reacting to all of the above with the same arrogance, self-importance, and self-promotion.
In Matthew 18, the disciples boldly asked Jesus a timeless question. As was often the case when they asked Jesus a question, the answer was not what they wanted to hear.
Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? (Matthew 18:1)
That question is as valid today as two thousand years ago. The only difference is that today we rarely actually ask it out loud. That would stain our image. But we think about it all the time.
We compare ourselves and our accomplishments with others, and when our church is bigger, when our cause is more compassionate, when our coffee is more organic, when our Calvinism is more Reformed, and when our candidate is more righteous, then we are obviously greater than the poorly informed commoners around us.
I am guessing that the disciples expected Jesus to include them by name in his greatest in the kingdom top ten list. His answer was surprising, unforgettable, and it included exactly zero of their names.
Unless you become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3)
In other words, “forget being the greatest in the kingdom, with your arrogance, you might not even get in the kingdom.”
Then Jesus explains what kingdom greatness really is. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest.(Matthew 18:4)
According to Jesus, greatness has nothing to do with fame, fortune, position, power, intellect, accomplishments, or being right. Greatness is connected to humility. This means anyone can be great. Even the poor, the servant, the ignored, the unknown, and the youth.
Kingdom greatness is all about humbling self, not promoting self.
I pray God will give us preachers and politicians who will reject self-promotion and will take the low road to greatness.