The Scriptorium

The Way to Greatness

Jesus wants us to be great. Humble, but great. Matthew 18.1-5

Matthew 18: Others First (1)

Pray Psalm 146.1, 2.
Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD, O my soul!
While I live I will praise the LORD;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

Sing Psalm 146.1, 2, 10.
(Hallelujah! What a Savior: Man of Sorrows)
Praise the Lord, my soul, give praise! While I live, His Name I’ll raise!
And exalt Him all my days – God forever reigns in Zion!

Read and meditate on Matthew 18.1-5.

1. What were the disciples wanting to know?

2. What makes one great in the Kingdom of God?

This is now the second time the matter of Kingdom greatness has come up in the Gospel of Matthew. The first time, Jesus brought it up – as if to whet His disciples’ attitude for such a thing (Matt. 5.17-19). There we learned that being great in the Kingdom involved learning, obeying, and teaching the Law of God.

Here Jesus showed that greatness in the Kingdom is sort of a background virtue – always at the ready to serve, but never ostentatious. Children, we all know, should be seen, but not heard. Well, not exactly. Children look to others and want to please them. They find their greatest pleasure by being applauded by those they love and esteem. When they’re at their best, they deny themselves to please those they love. Kingdom greatness involves such a self-denying, cross-bearing, others-serving disposition. Do you want to be great in the Kingdom? Kingdom greatness involves pleasing others. Happily, the Law of God has been given us for just this reason. It teaches us how to please God and our neighbors, as we love them consistently and well.

If we combine this passage with the earlier one, we can see that learning, obeying, and teaching the Law of God must not be done in a bullying or authoritative manner. If this is our view of teaching and making disciples, we don’t understand how life in the Kingdom works. In the Kingdom, righteousness, peace, and joy are the defining motifs (Rom. 14.17, 18). We learn the Law and keep it so that, by its wisdom and light, we may love God and serve others well. As we internalize the Law – or, to be more precise, as the Holy Spirit writes the Law on our hearts (Ezek. 36.26, 27) – we are formed into childlike souls who live to please God and serve others, following the grace and truth God has established for us in His Law (Rom. 3.31).

Wonder and humility; obeying to serve; learning to love; loving to teach – these are how the citizens and ambassadors of Christ’s Kingdom climb the ladder of greatness.

1. What would you say are the greatest hindrances to realizing greatness in the Kingdom of God?

2. Can we ignore or neglect the Law of God and realize greatness in the Kingdom? Why not?

3. What opportunities for seeking Kingdom greatness are before you today?

He called a child to him to ask its age or to show the image of innocence. Or perhaps he actually set a child in their midst—he himself, who had not come to be served but to serve—to show them an example of humility.
Jerome (347-420), Commentary on Matthew 3.18.2

I want to be great in Your Kingdom, Lord, so help me today as I…

Pray Psalm 146.3-10.
Rejoice in the hope of salvation, the freedom you have in Jesus, His daily provision of all your needs, and the opportunities He gives you for serving others.

Sing Psalm 146.3-10.
Psalm 146.2-10 (Hallelujah! What a Savior!: Man of Sorrows)
Trust we not in prince or man – no salvation’s in their hand;
Death shall take them, breath and plans – God forever reigns in Zion!

Blessed are they whose hope resides in the Lord, Christ at His side.
By Him heav’n and earth abide – God forever reigns in Zion!

He is faithful evermore; He gives justice to the poor,
feeds the hungry from His store – God forever reigns in Zion!

Jesus sets the pris’ner free, heals blind eyes that they may see,
lifts those burdened painfully – God forever reigns in Zion!

He the righteous loves the best; wand’rers in His grace are blessed;
needy ones in Him find rest – God forever reigns in Zion!

But the wicked who defame His eternal blessèd Name,
Them He brings to ruin and shame – God forever reigns in Zion!

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All quotations from Church Fathers from
Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore