Then they came to Capernaum. While Jesus was at home, he asked the disciples, “What were you arguing about on the road?” They were silent. On the road they had argued about who was the greatest. He sat down and called the twelve apostles. He told them, “Whoever wants to be the most important person must take the last place and be a servant to everyone else.” Then he took a little child and had him stand among them. He put his arms around the child and said to them, “Whoever welcomes a child like this in my name welcomes me. Whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone forcing demons out of a person by using the power and authority of your name. We tried to stop him because he was not one of us.” Jesus said, “Don’t stop him! No one who works a miracle in my name can turn around and speak evil of me. Whoever isn’t against us is for us. I can guarantee this truth: Whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.” “These little ones believe in me. It would be best for the person who causes one of them to lose faith to be thrown into the sea with a large stone hung around his neck.
Mark 9:33-42 GW
There are plenty of people who want to see themselves as the greatest, who want to argue, who want to try and exercise authority over others — even within the group who gathers together to follow Christ. But we see here that such behavior does not come from the spirit of Christ but is from the sinful nature of man, it rises up from the pride of life and is not the result of humble awe and wonder found in seeking the Lord.
It would be easy at this point to agree eagerly and point our fingers at some outwardly religious and judgemental person we know within the church who has behaved this way towards us and say, “Yes! See, we must stop them from teaching their vile behaviors to others! We must not listen to them! We must earn others of them!” When this rises up, and we are not quick to listen and slow to speak — we would be better off to first warn others not to listen to us!!!
Don’t fall into the temptation to aim this teaching outward towards others, and like the disciples, argue amongst yourselves who is greatest (and in turn make judgements about who you wrongly think is least) or you will be walking as blindly and confused as the disciples were before Jesus called them out. No, if Christ calls out his followers, and we claim to be a follower ourselves — our reaction shouldn’t be, “Look at those foolish disciples!” as if not including ourselves in the group to be corrected here. Our reaction should be to listen and look at ourselves. Where have we been prideful, religious, judgemental, divisive when it comes to other followers of Christ?
When have we too wanted to see ourselves as the greatest, wanted to argue, wanted to try and exercise authority over others? And those who quickly answer to themselves that they are innocent of such things — usually are not standing in close and right and humble relationship to the Lord, no matter how often they are seen amongst the religious crowd.
So first, we must ask whether we are willing to examine ourselves honestly and truly. Because the leaven of self- righteousness piety, of condemnation, of judgemental actions towards others sho their best to ship wreck the faith of these little ones around us — and who will answer for such things. We might know of those in “church leadership” whose hypocrisy and self-righteousness and argumentative and divisive nature has seemingly driven our ship off faith towards the rocks — and God grant us the grace to pray for our faith to be strengthened for their sake as well as our own. To rejoice in the thought that anyone have a milestone around their neck is to rejoice in a shipwrecked faith, so please, never let that be so in our hearts, Lord!!!
Can we see how this teaching, when aimed outward at others only breeds competition and division, but when we examine ourselves we can repent and be humbled ands praise God for the unmerited favor He shows us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?
Stop trying to be great. You aren’t.
To even think that you are sets you on the path to failure.
If your vision is that you are to build great men and women of God up with your own hands — even if your intentions are to build up a legacy and monument to honor the Lord — you should first ask (like David did when he wanted to build a temple for the Lord) to see if that is even your appointed task.
And we all should know that it is not a temple built by the hands of men where the spirit of the Lord dwells. Religious men build up many converts and proselytes who are twice the wicked and empty tombs they are themselves — regardless how bright and shiny and greatly honored they are in public view. It would be good to rest assured that this is not the type of builder you are — that the work be the hand of the Lord and not your own chiseling and cutting and shaping and molding and manipulating. There are grand architects hiding in the shadows asserting such religious construction efforts that will all be swept away by the consuming fires in the end.
No. See clearly your own overwhelming need for the gospel truth, your need for Christ Jesus, your need to fall humbly in awe at the foot of the cross, amazed that any of us “foolish followers” would have a chance to remain in the throne room of Almighty God and not be utterly destroyed (and rightly so) by the consuming fire that is our God. We should fall on our faces, praying that we trust that His promises are true, and that we come with nothing of value to offer but our testimony of His mercy and grace and glory and honor.
Lord, help us. You know our many failures and shortcomings, but we have covered the door posts of our lives with the Blood of the Lamb, and we are singing your praises and sharing our testimonies. We know that you have overcome ands that yours is the victory. Keep us in your grace and see us through to your glory and honor, in spite of our foolishness. Help us walk upright to the point that it might encourage others that your promises address true ands that they might long for your presence as well — but not so that in our own sight we would be comfortable standing proudly in the way of another or building up any obstacles or hindrances to Amy that would know you as Lord and Savior. Forgive us for those times that we may have in the past, and lead us along your narrow way. Amen.