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Who Is the Greatest?

Many men in the Bible are great examples of men of valor.

Some of them, like Moses and David, did not always act that way, though, and they are a reminder to us that we should always strive to act and live as the men of valor we are.

Let’s compare some of the biblical men of valor who did not act appropriately at a particular time in their lives to an unnamed person Jesus said who did demonstrate many of the qualities of a man of valor.

Matthew 18: 1-4 says, “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him among them, and said, ‘Truly I say to you, unless you change and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. So whoever will humble himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven‘” (NASB).

This must be important because the Holy Spirit led three of the gospel writers to include this event in their gospels (Luke 9:46 and Mark 9:33-37).

What is the message? The contrast of a proud, self-fulfilling man versus what we should be as men of valor!

The first type of man asks: “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

These were the disciples! Think who they were and all they had done with our Lord! Certainly, they were men of valor, but men of valor can be weak and mess up, too.

From this question, we learn a lot about them. Jesus’ disciples wanted to know who had the highest ranking, who was chief, who was superior.

I can imagine them arguing with one another as to who should be the greatest based on criteria that they thought was important. Maybe one of them would say, “I should be the greatest because I am the richest.” Another may say, “I should be the greatest because I am the smartest.” Another may say, “I should be the greatest because I have sacrificed the most.”

Based on this question, let me list some adjectives that describe the disciples at that point::

  • Self-seeking / selfish
  • Self-willed  / ambitious
  • Proud / thinking that they were better than others
  • Egotistical
  • Wanting to run their own lives based on their actions
  • Feeling of worthiness / how important they were
  • Convinced they would be in the kingdom of heaven

You cannot go any higher than wanting to be the greatest. They were thinking only of themselves and what position they would have in His kingdom.

When Christian men are living for themselves and not for others, there is bound to be conflict and division. They would NOT be living as men of valor.

The second type of man … is an unnamed child.

I have noticed that there are many times in Scripture when the Lord does not answer a question directly. This is one of them. Instead, He brought along a comparison person: “And He called a child to Himself and set him among them” (verse 2).

Let me now list a few adjectives that describe a child:

  • Dependent
  • Meek
  • Trustful
  • No ambition
  • No fancy wardrobe
  • Without hypocrisy
  • No demands, rights, or honors
  • Humble

A child cannot meet his own needs; he is content with whatever you provide him. It is that childlike, humble dependence that the Lord honors!

Can children teach us men?

I remember one day when my son was around three years old and I had to take him to the doctor for his annual checkup. While we were sitting in the waiting area, he and the other little children got down on the floor and started playing with the toys together. My son did not know these kids or their parents’ status in life—who was healthier, richer, more popular, or more powerful. What he did know was that there were toys he could share with other kids.  My son taught me a lesson that day.

Matthew 18:3 says, “Truly I say to you, unless you change and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Being like a child does not mean being childish but childlike. Men of valor must have childlike, humble trust in our Lord.

The world bases success on wealth, power, influence, control, popularity, fame, and prestige. Jesus based success on humility—entering the kingdom of heaven with a repentant heart and a will that turns to God.

What is the answer to the question, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Verse 4 says, “Whoever will humble himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Men, we get there only due to God’s grace!

Jesus emphasized the importance of humility and self-sacrifice as the key virtues. He teaches that in the kingdom of God, it is childlike humility that matters—not social prominence, not clout, not skills, not achievements.

Let us daily examine ourselves to live humbly as God’s men of valor.

Jamie Jackson
A retired businessman, Jamie is the chairman of the MOV Board of Directors and a member of the special MOV-USA task force who broadcasts weekly discipleship messages to Kenya through Skype.

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