Real significance

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:1-4

It’s natural for each of us to want to feel significant. From little on we crave feeling important to someone. A little boy beams when complimented by his dad. He might even act out to try to get his father’s attention. He wants someone to think he’s special. A woman glows with a peaceful joy as she is praised in a gathering of her friends. She feels significant. A husband’s grin is an exhibition of satisfying peace as he is recognized for a job well done. He has made a difference in the eyes of someone. This human need is not only harmless, but it ends up as a building block in the richness of meaningful personal relationships.

Imagined significance

This need, however, can turn ugly . . . if not sinful. It happens when instead of being good and caring listeners, we manipulate the conversation so the spotlight is back on us. This is a subtle way to fabricate a feeling of personal significance.

This need can become ugly in other ways too. The chronic gossiper does it often. He or she first attracts a crowd of hungry listeners and then feels superior to the person being gossiped about. Once again, it’s a merely imagined significance that doesn’t enhance relationships. It destroys them.

Jesus’ disciples had the same needs. In their case it also got ugly. After three years of intensive seminary training at the feet of God’s Son, they still didn’t get “significance” right. In the upper room, within hours of Jesus’ execution, they got into a shouting match. They couldn’t agree on which of them was the most significant. Earlier Mrs. Zebadee had come to Jesus about her two sons, James and John. Her request was that one son be Chief of Staff and the other his Secretary of State when Jesus set up his kingdom. This made the other disciples furious. In the pecking order of importance, they were being bumped to the back of the bus. My guess is that Jesus shook his head in frustration more than once.

People who artificially manufacture the appearance of significance and importance have an arrogance problem and a misunderstanding about the kingdom of God.

True significance

But Jesus turns everything on its head. “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”


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