Who is the Greatest?

33They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

35Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

36He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37“Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

— Mark 9:33-37 (NIV)

It’s probably hard to imagine the apostles arguing, right?  Not at all – and the reason it’s not is because they were a close knit group…a family so to speak.  This was a group of men who spent most, if not all, of their time together…so of course they had their spats every now and then.  The quarrel isn’t the key in this passage; however, the key is what they were arguing about…who is the greatest?

This is something that we each do day in and day out.  We fight with siblings about who is our parents favorite…we fight with co-workers about who does the best job…we constantly seem to give ourselves the glory for things that happen in our lives…whether we deserve the credit or not…we don’t want to go unnoticed.

There are three keys that stick out in this passage – what they were arguing about, their reaction to Jesus questioning them, and Jesus solution to the problem.

First – Who is the Greatest?

Why did they feel they needed to figure out who was the best…who was the favorite…who was first in line?  It is something we can all relate to.  We all have egotistical tendencies when it comes to how others feel about us, whether it be over a sibling in the eyes of a parent, or a co-worker about who is the boss’ favorite; whatever the situation, the argument is the same, “Who is better?!?”

What is our fascination with being the best?  Why do we constantly feel we need to pump ourselves up to gain someone’s approval?  It is something that we’ve seen from the beginning of time…the serpent used this against Eve when he convinced her to partake of the forbidden fruit, Cain was jealous of Abel’s standing with God, and the Apostles wanted to know who Jesus’ favorite was.  We constantly seek to be the best at something…it’s something that comes to us naturally because we want to be accepted by anyone and everyone; or maybe you don’t care what people think…but doesn’t that come from a mindset of ‘I’m better than them’ in some ways?

I’m not saying this is the reaction all the time, but think about times in your life, and you will see that each one of us have that reaction to many situations we face.  Jesus tells us that no one is better than another.  Cain and Abel both had something to offer God…Cain didn’t get why God was upset because he wasn’t willing to give the best of himself to God…Abel was; it had nothing to do with who was greater…just who was willing to give their best.

Second – The Apostles’ reaction…

They fought about who was the greatest, and Jesus had heard the argument.  Jesus, however, asked the question of them, “What were you quarreling over?”  It’s not that Jesus didn’t hear them; it’s that Jesus wanted to give them a chance to fess up to their mistake…but they knew they were wrong.  We know this because they kept quiet…just as we do when we know we were in the wrong.  When you were a child and your parents asked you if you did something (knowing you did the entire time) the first reaction is always to divert the attention from what was really going on.  Look at the story of Cain…that is what he did…when God asked Cain where Abel was, God already knew that Cain had taken matters into his own hands and had killed his brother; but Cain’s answer to God was, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  Because Cain felt guilty he lied to God.  It’s the same thing Adam and Eve did after eating the fruit…they didn’t want to accept blame for making the decision to partake…divert attention.

It’s funny though, the first and second points contradict each other in some ways.  Not scripturally, but within ourselves.  We’re ready to crow aloud the accomplishments we feel will bring us the glory…we’re ready to shout from the mountaintops that we are the greatest…that is until someone brings us back down when they call our lack of humility into question…then, we cower back into a shell…wishing we could disappear…it’s the whole “not me” mentality.

Third – The Solution…

35Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

— Mark 9:35 (NIV)

The first shall be last…we’ve heard it time and again.  If you want to be first among the children of God…you must be last in your mind.  If you want to be the greatest…be the lowest, be humble, be a servant to everyone you meet.  Jesus tells his followers that unless you are able to stop the ‘me first’ thinking, you’ll never achieve the glory you seek.  It’s something that we have trouble doing because we don’t want to look at others as above us.

“I’m better than the homeless guy” – oh really?  “I’m a better person than so-and-so” – are you sure?  Statements like this put us behind those people according to Jesus.  In order to be first, we must put ourselves last.  Does this mean we should appear to be humble and serve to receive glory?  NO!  It means that we should be sincere in what we do.  Nothing that we do in life should be done with our glory in mind…if that is what we do it for…then we will receive our reward here on earth…because that is what we want…because we’re still living in a me first frame of mind.  You have to mentally humble yourself to serve…motive speaks just as much as the action.  If you do something because you feel you have to do it, joy is nowhere to be found…if you do it because you want to, you can’t help but smile…and your joy is evident.

Jesus gives the disciples the solution…but it wasn’t the answer that they were expecting.  Then Jesus calls a child to him…what do children have to do with the answer to the question of who is greater?

36He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37“Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

— Mark 9:36-37 (NIV)

Children exemplify humility.  Jesus was using this child to show the mindset the Twelve needed to have…one of childlike humility.  Being humble means that you hide from the spotlight, you don’t seek your own glory for what you do…you know what it means to be like a child…dependant upon your Father for support.  Children know they can’t do things without their parents, and we are called the children of God.  We are the Children of God…we are His children, His offspring…His pride and joy – when we do what we are called to do.

Jesus tells the Twelve to become like a child…and he also tells them to accept the child in his name.

“Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me…” Jesus is saying to the Twelve, “I know this is a child, and he doesn’t have much standing in your society…accept him in my name, because by doing so – you accept me.  Jesus then goes on to say, “…and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” If you welcome a child, you welcome Jesus, and when you welcome Jesus you don’t welcome him, but God.  What is Jesus saying?  If you humble yourself and accept a child in the name of Christ, not only do you welcome Jesus, but more than that, you welcome God.  Welcoming God means you realize you have no standing without him…and welcoming a child in the name of Jesus means that you realize that God is in control…that you are a servant of God, and that by serving Him you serve others.

To be the greatest you must become the lowest…you must serve others to receive your reward…but you mustn’t do it with becoming the greatest in mind.  Serving God begins when we submit to service of others with a joyful and contrite heart; when we humble ourselves we will be lifted up…out of the depths…to His Glory.  To achieve our full potential…we must deny ourselves.

What are you doing for others?  Are you serving the children of God?  Have you devoted your life to living a life that is not self-gratifying, but bringing glory to your Father in heaven?  When you serve do you do it for the right reasons?  Are you devoted to knowing God and making Him known?  What is your motivation?

“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

— John F. Kennedy (1961)

Don’t keep asking God what he can do for you…ask God what you can do for him.

37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

— Matthew 25:37-40 (NIV)

Take the time to serve someone today…you’ll be glad you did!



Declaration of Dependence

Declaration of Independence34Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

— John 8:34-36 (NIV)

On July 4, 1776 there was a group of men who met to approve the final copy of the Declaration of Independence.  Prior to this a committee had been formed, comprised of 5 men, to whom the task fell to compose one of the most influential documents this world has ever seen.  Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston were the five men who were given the charge to pen a document of independence…a document that would shape our country.

The task of authoring the document fell to Jefferson however, who was deemed by the five selected as the best writer of the group, and the document then underwent 86 different changes between the drafting committee and congress prior to approval.  The Second Continental Congress met on July 4, 1776 and approved the document as a Declaration of our Independence from the oppressive rule of Brittan.  One story even states that as they signed the document on July 19, 1776 that John Hancock, the first to sign and probably the most notable signature in the history of the United States, turned to the others and said of his signature, “King George should be able to see that!”John Hancock Sign 01

So, Jefferson penned one of the most powerful documents, and had many changes that the committee he was a part of made, as well as the many changes that congress then proceeded to make; but there was a section which was left somewhat untouched…a section that identified this nation…a section that at some points it seems we are trying to change.  That section is the first couple of paragraphs:

”When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

— Declaration of Independence, 1776

The forefathers of this nation felt that they were under oppression, so strongly that they sought, and gained, independence from the tyranny they were facing with Brittan.  Jefferson reflected this in the open of the Declaration…when it becomes necessary for a people to dissolve the political bands that have connected them to another country and to assume their own leadership.  They were searching for a freedom that could only come from breaking away from the strings that had so long tied them down…they were declaring our independence.

The second paragraph opens in a way that is key for us as Americans, and as Christians, to understand what our ties now are.  Jefferson made a profound claim – a claim that we were a nation being formed on Christian Values…a nation devoted to God; a section that passed congress, without change, to show us where our true loyalty as a nation was…so why now are we being proclaimed as “no longer a Judeo-Christian nation”?

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

These words bring to light three points that our forefathers were trying to convey, not only to the country they were separating from, but to the world…Three TRUTHS.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident…” – Truths implies that the next statements were considered factual in the eyes of our forefathers…facts that are held as self-evident (meaning they show themselves without needing proof).

# 1 – All Men are Created Equal

No person was created to be considered greater than another, with the exception of slavery, our forefathers seemed to grasp this point, stating that true freedom comes from considering each other as equals.  The reason this works is because people stop viewing each other as social outcasts, as less than they are…that is how we are designed by God – to be considered equal with each other.

Look at the story in Mark 9:33-37 where Jesus and the Disciples are speaking with each other:

33They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

35Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

36He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37“Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

— Mark 9:33-37 (NIV)

Jesus addressed this issue of the inequality of man by stating that if you want to be first, put yourself as the very least…the only way to fully understand what reward is, is to become the smallest in your own mind, do not seek your own gain.  Jesus puts the image of a child into play as well…why?  Because children know no friendship boundaries; they seem to accept each other without basing decisions on race, religion, social status, etc.  Children seem to understand that true friendship is more than just skin-deep.  Jesus then says, accept them, you accept me; you accept me, you accept My Father.

# 2 – All Men are Endowed by Their Creator

Not creators or gods, but all me are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.  The adoption of this by our forefathers exemplifies that they had a faith in the One-True God.  They didn’t look elsewhere for the explanation, because they were in full belief of ONE God.  Not only is there only one God, but He has given His people certain rights.

So, I guess the question here is one of this, “why we are not/no longer a Christian nation?”  It sure seems to me that is how the forefathers viewed it; we had a belief and basis of God when this country declared its independence.  We were founded on Christian principles and beliefs, and the statement of their Creator implies one God, not many.  Something doesn’t add up today when we look at the congress and presidency, and view the changes they are trying to make based on “religious freedom”…

# 3 – Certain Inalienable Rights

We are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights… Inalienable means that it is not transferable to another or capable of being repudiated (dictionary.com)

In other words we are given rights that no one can take away from us, and those rights, according to our forefathers, are from God.  Among those are “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” So again, why is our country trying to force us to accept others and take God out of things when God seems to be the reason we are together as a country today…at least according to the founders of this nation…my how things can change in 239 years.

The three Rights mentioned – Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.


Life is given to us by God alone.  In Genesis 1:26, God says “Let us create man in our own image.” Genesis 2:7 tells us that, “The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” So what we see here is that life was given by God himself, to those he created in his own image…God gives life…God breathes life into us…without Him we would not exist.

Jesus then states in John 14:6, “I am The Way, The Truth, and The Life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus claims to be the Life…the one who offered his life for our eternal life…Jesus not only gave life, but offered life.  Life is an inalienable right…Life is a gift, and is not for any of us to take from anyone, or to take our own…We are given a life to live by our Creator and that Creator sent His Son to give us eternal Life.  Life is an inalienable right, and our forefathers list it as one of the most important, if not the most important right that we each have.


Plainly put, Liberty is Freedom.  Freedom from arbitrary control (the US from Brittan); the right and power of someone to act, believe, and/or express oneself in a manner of one’s own choosing; or a condition of being physically and legally free from confinement (Dictionary.com).  Liberty is something we seek, something we continually strive for both as an American and a Christian.

As a Christian we seek to break loose from the chains of sin, from the stronghold that sin can have on our life.  As an American, we seek to obtain the Liberty and Freedom that we have been promised from the inception of the Declaration of Independence…the Freedom our forefathers promised.  Here is where we best see this concept of a Declaration of Dependence come into play…for us to declare independence from the things that tie us to the world, we must declare dependence on God.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

— Galatians 5:1 (NIV)

It is for FREEDOM – the reason Christ set us free…the reason he died on a cross.  Christ died to give us freedom…our Liberty was/is dependant on Jesus.  Go back to the first verses I shared, “If the son has set you free, then you are free indeed!” If Christ sets you free, you are truly free.

The Pursuit of Happiness:

Happiness is a state of wellbeing and contentment, but to receive happiness we have to grasp the concept of Dependency…

11I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

— Philippians 4:11-13 (NIV)

Paul explained it best in this section of his letter to the Philippians, telling them that he knew the hardships of life; he knew what it was like to be on both ends of the spectrum…what it was like to have everything, and lose it all.  Paul also shows that happiness is a choice that is made on a daily basis by each and every one of us.  The key of this section, however, comes from verse 13, where Paul discusses his Declaration of Dependence: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Can you say that about your life?  Have you made that choice?  Basically it all sums up in this way:

Life – You have to give it to get it

Liberty – Freedom only comes through Christ

Happiness – a choice we each must make

The only One that can offer all three – GOD!  His Breath gives us life, He has given us free will to choose the path we take, and we get all we need if we choose to be dependent on God for the life that He has provided.  God planned it all out, and sent his son to fulfill a plan…

“16“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

— John 3:16-17 (NIV)

God didn’t send Jesus to condemn, but to save – to offer life through Him.

“7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

— 1 John 1:7 (NIV)

What do you depend on?  What do you try and be independent from?  Hopefully you are dependent upon the one who gives you true independence from the bonds of sin, and the bonds of hell.  Where does your heart find rest?  Make your Declaration of Dependence today!  Pray for our country, that we may find our way back to the nation who still believes God is in control.  Pray that we get back to what the forefathers seemed to declare, that we get back to moving forward in the eyes of God.