READING: Hosea 7-10, Matthew 18
Jesus spoke about denying oneself as His follower (e.g., Matt 16:24), but His disciples apparently did not listen well. It seems they continually assumed Jesus was in the process of setting up an earthly kingdom, and they further assumed they would be His ruling cabinet. They often argued among themselves who was the greatest in the kingdom. Their question in today’s text, “So who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matt 18:1), suggests a continuing rivalry among them. Perhaps some were jealous of Peter, James, and John. Maybe they heard Jesus speak of rewards (e.g., Matt 16:27) and wanted to find out who would receive the most. At a more basic level, they may well have simply wanted to know which of them was the most important player in Jesus’ plans.
It’s striking how far our fallen hearts lean into pride. Even when we know that Jesus expects us to be humble servants, we want quiet recognition for our humility. We teach that we must be like dependent, trusting children in following God even while we trust in self and seek praise from others. Our war with pride is an ongoing one—one we simply cannot win apart from God’s breaking our ego. Sometimes, in fact, God orchestrates tough events of life to reduce us to childlike dependence; in the process, we learn that God’s standards for “greatness” are quite different from the world’s standards.
PRAYER: “God, You alone are great. Change my heart so I don’t crave earthly recognition.”
TOMORROW’S READING: Hosea 11-13, Matthew 19