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The Greatest

Daily Devotional • June 19

A Reading from Matthew 18:1-9

1  At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 He called a child, whom he put among them, 3 and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

6 “If any of you cause one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of things that cause sin!Such things are bound to come, but woe to the one through whom they come!

8 “If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into the hell of fire.



Who is the greatest? The disciples make a classic mistake — comparing themselves to others and wanting to be the best above everyone else. According to St. Bernard of Clairvaux, they are descending the ladder to pride. They are on their way to rejecting God and committing idolatry by making themselves rule their own lives. The opposite of pride is humility, or total reliance on God. 

Christ explains that unless they change by humbling themselves and becoming like children, they will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Children take the hands of people that love them and trust them. They know their parent will provide, protect, and guide them. They have no influence, status, or control over their life. Relying on God for everything, like a child looking to a parent, makes us not depend on ourselves. Our status, control, power, ambition, and trust in ourselves disappear when we rely solely on the Lord like a child. This is the opposite of what our human nature wants, and as a result, we are constantly struggling with this. 

The disciples, just like us, are at the mercy of God. We have no status on our own before the Lord. We depend on the Lord for love and mercy, and to provide us with everything we need. Rather than trusting in ourselves, we turn to trust in the Lord. Christ says that whoever becomes humble, like a child, will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. We are dependent on the Father’s love and mercy. Surrendering to the Lord and putting others before us is the goal

The Rev. Sara Oxley is the rector of The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Maitland, Florida.

Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:

St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, Nashville, Tennessee

The Diocese of Gambia – The Church of the Province of West Africa


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