“I’m the best basketball player in the world, there is nobody better.”
It was 1993 and basketball star and reigning MVP, Charles Barkley, was the guest host of the comedy television series, Saturday Night Live aka SNL. In an interview with Stuart Smalley, played by Al Franken, Stuart attempts to help Charles understand his own insecurities. The exchange occurs at 2:30 into the interview. Tepid applause and a half-hearted, “Whoo!” trickled from the audience before a louder outburst and accolades followed.
I was amused when I first viewed this over twenty years ago. I, and probably others in the audience, were thinking that although Barkley was quite talented, he was undeserving of the MVP or worthy of his bold statement because Michael Jordan and the world champion Chicago Bulls were the reasons Barkley had not previously won the MVP or a championship. Thus, his confident statement seemed a bit hollow, or one that needed to be qualified.
Was Charles Barkely a great basketball player? No question. Was there nobody better than him at that time? That is certainly open to debate. The question of who is the greatest captures our imagination and ignites endless debates. Sports, wealth, prestige-no matter the category, we cannot help but be drawn into making comparisons. Even the disciples of Jesus Christ fell victim to this.
They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, because on the way they had been arguing with one another about who was the greatest. Sitting down, he called the Twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last and servant of all.” He took a child, had him stand among them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one little child such as this in my name welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me does not welcome me, but him who sent me.” Mark 9:33-37 (CSB)
Just like the debate over the greatness of Charles Barkley, I easily fall victim to the same mindset to which the disciples of Jesus Christ succumbed. The world places an overemphasis on who is the greatest but in God’s Kingdom, Jesus Christ reveals the Truth. It is instructive that Jesus does not directly answer their question but challenges them to ask another question of themselves. Greatness is defined by service to others and God, not by the accumulation of accolades and achievements for oneself.
In God’s Kingdom, the question of, “Who is the greatest?” is meaningless. Our question should always be, “Who has the greatest needs so that we may serve them.”
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.