Everyone loves a winner.
And we live in a competitive world, don’t we?
What is it about human nature that makes us want to finish on top, to beat out the next guy, to endlessly compare ourselves to others?
Unfortunately, winning can be a relative term.
Especially when the issue of popularity is thrown in there.
When I was in high school (ages and ages ago…), I decided to try out for the flag team. Back in my day, the flag team was a little group of girls who twirled flags (basically batons with flags attached) – as they marched in parades and performed at football games.
So, I practiced and practiced. I got pretty good at it.
Finally the day came for tryouts. Yikes! I was really nervous. We tried out in groups of four. My best friend was right next to me. I only made one minor mistake, but my friend performed flawlessly.
There was one girl in our group who flubbed several moves – she even dropped her flag two or three times (BIG no-no).
I remember feeling pretty good afterwards. I thought I had a chance – but for sure, my girlfriend was gonna get in – she did great.
A few days later, we went to see who had made the team. I remember feeling sorry for the girl in our group who performed so poorly.
We looked at the names…the girl who had messed up, and dropped her flag, made the team. I should have known…
She was popular.
Sometimes we can get caught up in the same sort of competition within the Body of Christ. Sometimes we can get preoccupied with who’s the "better" Christian. Sometimes we compare ourselves, and jockey around for position – assigning value to our serving, and rating our sins.
It’s not very attractive – but it’s all so human.
Today’s "Bible Pick ‘Ems" shows us that this is not a new phenomenon. A long time ago, a motley crew of twelve men did the same thing:
"About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, 'Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?'" (Matthew 18:1)
I can almost hear the disciples kibitzing –
"I found the boy with the fish and loaves."
"Yeah, but I went up to the mountaintop with Him."
"I went, too, you know."
"Boys, boys – I walked on water."
Someone mutters in the background – "Yeah, for like two minutes."
Jesus must have rolled his eyes in frustration.
At this point in His ministry, His disciples were wasting time engaging in personal competition? They were concerned with whom He liked best? They were consumed with petty issues like performance and position?
The Kingdom of Heaven was a popularity contest?
Had they learned nothing?
"Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, 'I tell you the truth, unless you…become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.'" (Matthew 18:2-4)
The disciples had totally lost sight of what was truly important. They were caught up in winning. Instead of seeking a place of service, they sought positions of advantage.
Painful, but true – it is easy to lose our eternal perspective and compete for promotions or status in the church.
It’s easy to play the comparison game.
It’s tempting to want to "win" a faith popularity contest.
But Jesus doesn’t want winners – He wants servants.
He wants people who have childlike faith. Who are weak and dependent on Him. People who do not boast in their own abilities – but rely on only Him.
Jesus told us that we might be surprised in the end – for He turned the world’s values upside down. He promised that "many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then."
I think we can believe Him.
After all, He proved it Himself by dying a humble death on a criminal’s cross – and then was raised to the highest glory in His Father’s Kingdom.
You know, I don’t think I care so much about popularity anymore…
I just want to be His child – and seek His approval.
How about you?
"When in doubt, search God out!"