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The Synoptics on 
Greatness and Humility

Matt 18:
1  In that hour the disciples came to Jesus, saying,
"Who then is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?"
2  Jesus called a little child to himself, and set him in the midst of them,
3  and said, "Most assuredly I tell you,
unless you turn, and become as little children,
you will in no way enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Whoever therefore humbles himself as this little child,
the same is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
5  Whoever receives one such little child in my name receives me
Matt 23:
11  But he who is greatest among you will be your servant.
12  Whoever exalts himself will be humbled,
and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Luke 22:
25  He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them,
and those who have authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’
26  But not so with you. But one who is the greater among you,
let him become as the younger, and one who is governing, as one who serves.
27  For who is greater, one who sits at the table, or one who serves?
Isn’t it he who sits at the table? But I am in the midst of you as one who serves.
28  But you are those who have continued with me in my trials.
29  I confer on you a kingdom, even as my Father conferred on me,
30  that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom.
You will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel."
Related Parables:


Humility is the most essential of character qualities prerequisite to coming to faith in Christ. For without it one will not be convicted of sin nor appreciate the Word of God. Thus humiliation is often the path through which one comes to Christ.And we see that literally to follow Christ one would have to trod a path of humiliation. But this is also true of those who expect to be great in the kingdom of God.

God's measures greatness differently than the world. In the world, the great people are the popular people. The great people are those with a high status and much authority. And it is the old people who are honored. But children and servants are not reckoned great.

Notice that he associates children with servants. In that culture children were expected to obey and serve their parents not unlike servants. We see this for example in Paul's writings: "What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate.  He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father."Gal 4:1,2 So also does Jesus illustrate this in the Parable of the Prodigal Son in which the older son objected to the younger's treatment saying to his father "Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders."Luke 15:29

Children and slaves would perform similar tasks. Many today have deviated from this concept of raising children. And it's important to understand this, else we would interpret greatest to be simply a function of being immature and acting childishly. In Jesus' culture "childlike" is not the same concept as "childish" today.  Christians should not be childish. "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me."1Cor 13:11 Rather Christians should strive to be servants. And indeed, understanding this, Christians like to be called servants. But on the other hand Christians often don't like to be treated like servants.

Jesus is the ultimate example of a servant. "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:45 5 And Christians are called to be servants of Christ. "He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." 2Cor 5:15 The Christian life is not like signing a free fire-insurance policy and then going on your merry way. Believing in Christ incorporates submitting to His Lordship as well. Christians should not spend their lives running from here to there simply to find someone to meet their needs. Rather we should consider how we can meet other people's needs. Are you at a church that doesn't seem to meet your needs? Well then maybe you could meet theirs instead.

NIV used in comments
The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Jan 29,2022