In 1999, Kenny Rogers released the song, “I Am the Greatest.” It is about a boy who believes himself to be the greatest baseball player ever. He tells himself over and over that he is the greatest. He picks the ball up and pitches to himself, expecting to hit the ball out of his imaginary field. He ends up striking himself out. The song ends with:
Now it’s suppertime and his momma calls,from “I Am the Greatest” by Kenny Rogers
Little boy starts home with his bat and ball.
Says, “I am the greatest, that is a fact,
But even I didn’t know I could pitch like that!”
Says, “I am the greatest, that is understood,
But even I didn’t know I could pitch that good!”
The little boy wanted to be the greatest, but his definition of what it meant to be great had to change.
In today’s reading, Jesus does much the same: he redefines greatness for the disciples.
How do you define greatness? How is greatness defined in the culture around you?
Greatness is often defined by wealth, power, money or access to other resources. These things very often define what it means to be secure and successful and powerful. Jesus challenges this idea of greatness by pointing to a child and saying, “those who humble themselves like this little child will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (18:4).
What does it mean to be humble?
In 1733, John Wesley published a small book entitled A Collection of Forms of Prayer, For Every Day in the Week. The book offered daily morning and evening prayers and reflection questions about one’s spiritual and relational health. The morning questions were consistent throughout the week. The evening questions changed daily. The questions for Tuesday evening related to humility. Here are a few questions, written by Wesley, for you to consider as you seek to be the greatest in God’s kingdom by being humble:
- Have I labored to conform all my thoughts, words, and actions to these fundamental maxims: “I am nothing, I have nothing, I can do nothing?”
- Have I ascribed to myself any part of any good which God did by my hand?
- Have I desired the praise of [others]?
- Have I taken pleasure in it?
- Have I despised any one’s advice?