“For he who is least among you all – he is the greatest.” Luke 9:48 (NIV)
Today’s environment breeds in us a desire to excel, succeed, climb the corporate ladder. We learn early in life to be competitive – to win. First place in basketball, swimming, field hockey. Honors classes in school. Scholarships for college. These are all inherently good things.
There is nothing wrong with excellence – God is Himself excellent. He is organized, detailed, and imaginative. He is the Great Physician, the Chief Financial Officer, the Master Painter. And He instilled in each of us a part of Himself having created us in His image and likeness (Gen 1:27). So having a desire to do well and using gifts and talents to the best of our ability is natural and good.
The problem lies with the underlying reason behind doing well. What is our motivation? Is it to better the world or simply to better ourselves? Is it to cause change for the good of our neighbors or to manipulate situations to get more for ourselves? Are our gifts and talents being used to promote a caring and loving God or to promote our own efforts? Do we ever try to excel at the expense of someone else?
In Luke 9:46-48, Jesus is aware of the competition between his own disciples as to who would be the greatest. These are the very people that surrounded Jesus every day for 3 years! And even they struggled with status. The disciples had begun working miracles in the name of Jesus and for a moment seemed to forget that it was Jesus who was to get all the glory – not any of them.
Jesus’ response to their argument was “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me…” Who is the little child? The innocent, the kind, the beautiful - the helpless, the ignorant, the lost, the fatherless, the unlovable. In a word...
When we stoop to offer a foothold for our neighbors, we are closer to the foundation of Christ Jesus. The lower we place ourselves, the closer to the heart of God we move. When we put ourselves and selfish ambitions at the bottom of the list and place others ahead, we will then truly succeed. Do all for the glory of God and do all with thanksgiving. Use the gifts and talents we’ve been given to point others to the One True God – then He will say “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matt 25:21)