Then an argument started among them about who would be the greatest of them. But Jesus, knowing the thoughts of their hearts,took a little child and had him stand next to Him. He told them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in My name welcomes Me. And whoever welcomes Me welcomes Him who sent Me. For whoever is least among you—this one is great.” Lk 9:46-48
On my daily morning commute to work I heard Chuck Swindoll speak on this passage briefly. He spoke on it regarding confronting biblically, but it resonated with me in a much different way.
One of the things that I struggle with most in my job is affirmation and recognition. Most of the time I don’t find it an issue. I try my best to do my job, do it well, and go home. However it’s not hard to get discouraged at times, especially when hard work gets overlooked over and over again. I had a discussion with a friend who felt in the same position, finding that overwork and poor boundaries tend to get rewarded. We both found the desire to draw more attention to ourselves in order to earn what we thought was our share of praise and glory.
We looked around though, and found that in many cases the exemplary “employee of the month” is the first to burn out. In that light, was the praise worth it?
In this passage from Luke we find a similar struggle going on among the disciples. Who’s the greatest? Who’s the “disciple of the month?” Who goes over and above? Jesus, in this passage, directs rebuke not at their apparent behavior but at the cause of their behavior – pride, leading to resentment and division. Rather than pick one of the disciples to stand at his side, he chooses a child. The disciples did not have a good track record with children, shooing them away from Jesus at about any occasion they could. Yet Jesus sought out children precisely for this reason.
Children long to be recognized, to be affirmed. The minute one grabs the spotlight and says “look at me!”, another tries to trump it. I think we are born strivers to some degree, some more than others. Is such striving learned or inherent?
I can’t say, but I want to unlearn it.
Some time ago I read Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead (ok – I listened to it in the car). The hero of the book is a striver as well, but not to impress others. The architect/hero Roarke savored the intrinsic satisfaction of living up to what he saw as his own inherent potential. He cared less what others thought, going so far as to blow up one of his own buildings because it had been altered from his specifications. He stated,
Every form of happiness is private. Our greatest moments are personal, self-motivated, not to be touched. The things which are sacred or precious to us are the things we withdraw from promiscuous sharing. But now we are taught to throw everything within us into public light and common pawing.
I wish I could do that. And perhaps that has something to with the Luke passage as well. I can cling to the recognition of others as a marker of who I am and the value of what I’ve accomplished. I can also cast that aside to find myself as I am in Jesus’ eyes, who doesn’t care what tricks I do. My own pride so often comes between me and my Lord, not to mention my wife, my co-workers, and my friends.