I once heard a story about a young woman who was completing a college application and encountered the question “Are you a leader?” She answered honestly and wrote, “No,” then returned the application, expecting a rejection letter. Instead, she received the following: “Dear Applicant: A study of the application forms reveals that, this year, our college will have 1,452 new leaders. We are accepting you because we feel it is imperative that they have at least one follower.” I’m sure that the 1,452 other applicants had regaled the entrance committee with lists of their accomplishments and past performances. No doubt, they listed awards and excellent grades and character traits meant to impress their reviewers. After all, those things are what our society values and labels as “success”.
In Matthew 18:1-4, it’s pretty clear that the disciples assumed the same. They believed that their human accomplishments and leadership skills would gain them a top spot in heaven, so I’m sure Jesus’ response was a disappointment to them. He called a child over and told His disciples that unless they became as children, they would never enter the kingdom. The disciples must have been confused. After all, in Bible times, children had no status. No child had walked on water, healed a blind man, or cast out demons like they had. Children had no power and were completely dependent on others to meet their needs. And this was exactly Jesus’ point: kingdom status doesn’t come from human achievements but by recognizing our complete, childlike dependence on Him.
It’s easy for me to constantly analyze my performance in an attempt to convince myself that if I accomplish certain things such as a consistent quiet time or avoiding a certain sin, then I will have done enough to make myself worthy. But the beauty of Jesus’ words is that they proclaim grace over those who are unworthy and condemn those who think their performance or accomplishments make them worthy. In heaven’s economy, earthly values lose their appeal. Being the least is the greatest. Surrender is success. Dependence is freedom.
Father, thank you that there is nothing I can do–or not do–to earn Your grace. Help me to value following You over any accomplishment that the world may view as success and to extend to others the same love and grace that You have shown me.