Bible Society of South Africa

Who is the most important in the kingdom? – 13 September 2022

By Ben Fourie

Bible text(s)

Who is the Greatest?

1At that time the disciples came to Jesus, asking, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?”

Matthew 18:1GNBOpen in Bible reader

Very few of us escape the aspiration to be the most important person in a group or situation. To prove this, just sit quietly and observe a group of young children playing. You will soon see that there is rivalry, even among them.

I sometimes watch people at a meeting or social gathering and observe how they are striving to be the top dog. Just as many times, I catch myself doing exactly the same. Years ago, I was actively engaged in pastoral therapy. During sessions with people with family or marriage problems, I found that much of the conflict arose from those involved wanting to be the most important in the relationship.

The disciples of Jesus also did not escape this very human trait. They had been present many times when Jesus talked about the kingdom of heaven and, although they obviously did not fully understand what he meant, they wanted to be high up in the que when the most important positions were handed out.

Jesus often used parables or examples to stress a very important point. This time, he called a small child to him and told them: “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:4, ESV) I think there were quite a few very surprised faces among the listeners. Just a few days later, people brought their children to be blessed by Jesus and can you believe it, his followers had already forgotten this very important lesson! Jesus admonished them immediately and told them not to hinder the children who want to come to him, and then underlined it with “… for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these”.

It is almost with complete disbelief that one then reads in Luke 22:24, of another time when “also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest”. Maybe, we might find this lesson just as difficult to learn as the disciples did. Therefore, let us say to one another once more: in the kingdom of God nobody is more important than someone else is. Women, men, beggars, theologians, professors, people with disabilities, children – in the eyes of God, we are all the same.

Prayer: Please Lord, help me not to think that I am more important than the next person is. Amen

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