March 22, 2015
LISTEN TO HIM
We live in a world where all the energy goes into “measuring up.” Who has the most credentials, the best resume, the highest grades, the top salary and on we could go.
Meanwhile, Jesus establishes a Kingdom where all the energy goes into “measuring down.”
The world works like a kid at an amusement park standing in a roller coaster line just hoping and praying that they will measure up to the height line to be admitted to the ride.
It reminds me of a story I once heard about the pulitzer prize winning author, David McCullough. He does all his writing in a small primitive cabin that sits behind his residence at the end of a trail. As the trail ends, one comes to a gate and next to the gate is a measuring rod with a sign. The sign says you must be no taller than the mark in order to be admitted. In other words. You must measure down. (Only his grandchildren can get in.)
If there’s one consistent message in all Jesus has said thus far in this journey from Transfiguration Mountain to the Mount of Golgotha, it is this: “Measure down.” In today’s text he puts it this way:
Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
As I’ve said before, he’s not talking about becoming care-free and whimsical and full of wonder child-likeness, though that’s a good thing. No, Jesus is saying the only way you can get into my kingdom is to come in the same way a child does; with no qualifications save the one qualification of having no qualifications to commend you. In the first century children had no status or rights or regard from the society. The Pharisees, as well as Jesus disciples, routinely handled them like a bouncer would, pushing them out of the way.
Jesus will not have it. Along the journey Jesus has pointed out example after example of what he’s looking for and who he’s not. The kingdom exemplars he identifies are women, widows, beggars, lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes, crippled, children, demon possessed and oppressed and so on. Today’s text is filled with it. Today it’s a powerless albeit persistent widow and a despicable, shame-filled tax collector. Contrast that with an unrighteous, dishonest, powerful judge and a meticulously careful and proud rule follower Pharisee.
I don’t know about you, but I have given much of my life to the quest of “measuring up.” I think I’m really only on the cusp of learning what it means to “measure down.” “But you are a teacher of the Word of God,” you say. And I say, “Yes, so were the Scribes and Pharisees.” My ability (or not) to teach Scripture and minister the Word of God no more qualifies me to enter God’s Kingdom than a rich person’s wealth or an important person’s status or a do-gooder’s do-gooding qualifies them.
Jesus is not telling us we have to become status-less or poor or widowed or afflicted with leprosy or a child in order to enter his kingdom. He’s saying we must become “like them” in this respect: we claim no right to anything and depend on God’s mercy for everything. To the extent we cannot become “detached” from all of our wealth and status and otherwise highly valued qualifications, we must divorce ourselves from them. (we will see that one in play tomorrow)
When we finally learn to value ourselves only in the way we are valued by God and not by all the metrics the world uses to deem some worthy and others worthless, we will have finally measured down. When we finally understand we are the same as all the people that our distinctions have distinguished us from, we will finally have learned that they measure up. When we finally learn to value the least among us in the same way we value ourselves, then we will have entered the Kingdom of God.
And in the end, this will be the only Kingdom still standing. Trust me when I say, we will want to be in that number. We must learn to sing the song now.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.
J.D. Walt writes daily for Seedbed’s Daily Text. He serves as Seedbed’s Sower in Chief. Follow him @jdwalt on Twitter or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get the Daily Text delivered to your inbox fresh every morning. Subscribe HERE.