“I want everyone to bear witness, I am the greatest! I’m the greatest thing that ever lived. I don’t have a mark on my face, and I…just turned twenty-two years old. I must be the greatest. I showed the world. I talk to God every day. I know the real God. I shook up the world. I’m the king of the world. You must listen to me. I am the greatest! I can’t be beat!”
Do you know who spoke these words? What person would have the audacity to boast about being the “greatest thing that ever lived”?
If you’re a boxing fan you might have gotten it right. Yes, it was Muhammad Ali. Muhammad Ali was arguably one of the best boxers of his time. But if you ask him, he was the greatest.
Jesus’ Disciples might have fit right in with Muhammad Ali. They, too, thought they were the greatest. They even argued about it a time or two. Not necessarily in Jesus’ presence, but certainly in His absence. Check it out: “Jesus and his followers went to Capernaum. When they went into a house there, he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ But the followers did not answer, because their argument on the road was about which one of them was the greatest” (Mark 9:33-34).
Isn’t that crazy? These were guys who had been around Jesus for a while. These were guys who were chosen by Jesus, taught by Jesus, hung out with Jesus, and got to watch His humility in action. Yet, they were arguing about which one of them was the greatest.
Let me ask you some questions. How often do you catch yourself trying to “one-up” someone else? You know…like they tell you a story, and as soon as they’re done, you tell a similar story only yours has a “better” outcome. Or how often do you talk about yourself and how well you handled a situation? Or share how much better you would have dealt with a certain issue than somebody else did? Or subtly point out that you were the best dressed at the party? Or cleverly “brag” about all the places you’ve traveled to? The list goes on and on…
Dale Carnegie, in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People, points out that everyone’s favorite subject is themselves. We wouldn’t admit to it, but there just might be some truth in his statement.
Let me contrast that idea with what Jennie Allen wrote in her book Restless. She said, “But left to ourselves, we love being great more than we love making God great.” When I read that it was like a dagger to my heart. Could this be true of me? Could it be true of you?
If I were on the road to Capernaum with Jesus’ followers, would I have joined in on the argument about who was the greatest and promoted myself as one of them? Would you have?
I hate to admit it, but probably!
In today’s self-absorbed society, we need to hear the Apostle Paul’s admonition to us loud and clear: “Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us” (Romans 12:3). In other translations he says, “Do not think of yourselves more highly than you ought.”
What a great challenge for me. What a great challenge for you.
This week, as you engage in conversation with various people, keep tabs on how much of that conversation is about you. Be honest in your evaluation of yourself. And how about together, rather than owning the spotlight, let’s shake up the world and reflect the light of Christ in us!