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Great for God

James C. Marable, M. Div. When one thinks of popular culture, greatness is typically defined in terms of accomplishment, financial wealth, popularity, privilege and power leading to some means of notoriety and fame. A truer view of greatness, albeit less popular, centers on someone’s lasting significance as it relates to serving and elevating someone else. Whether we measure greatness based upon popularity or upon human achievement both definitions fall woefully short of God’s perspective of greatness! As a matter of fact, if you used either one of these criteria for greatness, John the Baptist would not have been deemed great. He was not born into a wealthy or powerful family. John’s parents, Zacharias and Elizabeth, were both from the priestly tribe of Levi, but that did not place them in a special social demographic. While still a teenager, John abandoned the comforts and conveniences of civilized society and moved out into the Judean wilderness. There was nothing about his background nor his behavior that would make one consider John anything other than odd. Certainly no one would classify him as being great. His ministry was relatively short and he encountered an undignified death by the hands of Herod.  However, in spite of living a life that looked diametrically different from the Jerusalem mainstream, Jesus declared John to be, not only a great man, but the greatest man who had ever lived. What was it about John that caused Jesus to ascribe such lofty words of commendation? This is a piercing and paramount question because 21st Century Christianity and the post-modern church has become inundated and infiltrated with lukewarm believers who place pleasing people over pleasing the Lord. When reading this pericope in Matthew 11, where Jesus called John the Baptist the greatest man to ever live, I was admittedly intrigued by it, because I believe the church and the world are in need of people who are determined to glorify God with their lives. In the narrative, John the Baptist provides four practical steps that will help those who have a passionate desire to be great for God. He teaches us that in order to be great, we must seize the call, separate from the crowd, stand up with courage and show others to Christ. Ultimately, the success gauge of our lives should be measured by our relationship with God through Jesus Christ and by our willingness to live existentially – allowing God to use us to impact the lives of others to the glory of His kingdom. Be great for God!

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