The Desire to Be the Greatest

Matthew 18.

The disciples, like all men, were concerned about this matter of who the greatest is. So the Lord teaches them through a child. And he tells them that they have to become like a child and to humble themselves like a child. What's more, he identifies himself with children when saying: "And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me."

So, in the following verses of this chapter of Matthew, the Lord deals with the importance of the little ones for God. In the world, little ones are devalued, but not so in the Kingdom. One of the greatest punishments to be received is for he who makes a little one stumble.

It is interesting to observe that this is the Lord's last teaching before leaving Galilee. This brings this cycle to a close, and the Lord now heads toward Jerusalem, to the cross. However, before doing so, the Lord teaches about humility.

He had chosen a Galilean city to take His first steps as a man (Nazareth), and had chosen another Galilean city as the centre of His ministry (Capernaum); everything is concordant with the humility of He who descended from His throne of glory to become a man.

But the message of humility didn't begin in Matthew 18, when finishing His ministry in Galilee, in fact, this message was preached a long time before, by His actions, by His life. Now, at the end of this cycle come the words. He had said that a perfect teacher is he who first acts, and then teaches (Matt. 5:19; 7:24). That's why it was only now, at the end, that His beautiful words were fitting.

Indeed; it is not the will of God that a single little one be lost. When they are misled, it is necessary to go and look for them, if they offend us we should try to win them back. The disciple's question was centred in who the greatest would be; whilst the Lord, on the other hand, brought their gaze back to the little ones. They looked up, but the Lord made them look down. They should not be looking to themselves, but to the little ones. What is their need? How could they be served?

The Lord's answers were not usually direct, but they were very effective. If we look closely, we will see that what he said was what was appropriate. Our problem is that we don't always associate what was asked with how the Lord answered.

Do the disciples think of themselves as being better, or greater? Is there desire for such things as these in their hearts? Then they must come back down off their high horse; be sure to become like little children, caring for the little ones and being sure that they are not a stumbling block to them.

Chapter 18 of Matthew is entirely dedicated to this matter. Even the parable of the two debtors concludes with this. The little ones must be cared for and taught, so that nobody becomes haughty, so that nobody becomes infatuated with thoughts of greatness. So that nobody desires to be the greatest.

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