Who is the greatest?

Who is the greatest?

I love coaching basketball. From 4th grade all the way up to 8th I coached my oldest son’s teams.  During those years, the boys were in that magical age range where they weren’t too cool for school yet and even though I was an adult, I was still considered a pretty cool guy.

The best part about the coaching experience is the deep and meaningful conversations after practice is over.  Like, who is the greatest NBA basketball player?  Is it Lebron James, or Kobe Bryant?  Lebron James was the odds on favorite at that time with his high flying dunks and super-human athleticism.  However, some of the boys felt that Kobe was the best because he was the smartest player.  I tried to make a case for Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, or Michael Jordan, but judging by the blank stares on their faces, my players were a little too young to remember any of those guys.

That’s the thing with greatness; it’s so fleeting.  As Solomon says, “there is no remembrance of men of old, 
and even those who are yet to come 
will not be remembered 
by those who follow.” (Ecc. 1:11)  Ouch!  Have you ever felt that way?  That nothing you have accomplished in life really lasts.  During the first practice of the season, the boys wanted to know what my coaching credentials were.  I explained how I had played college basketball and briefly described to them one of my best performances.  They were mildly impressed.  It was just enough to get them to do their defensive slide drills because I knew what I was talking about.  However, a few minutes later I was demonstrating a lay-up and it clanged off the side of the rim.  The looks on their faces said it all.  “The glory had departed.”

Jesus had some amazing things to say about greatness.  “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:33)  Based on our ingrained, human value system this statement makes no sense.  I’m tempted to just ignore it all together, but I know that whenever I don’t understand Jesus, I am in the dark and I would rather live in the light.  Thankfully, there’s another way of looking at these words of Jesus.  Maybe greatness isn’t something that is attained in this life.  Jesus also said, “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” (Mt. 6:20)  Having this view of greatness causes us to drastically change the way we define the word.

If greatness is a treasure that we store up for ourselves in heaven, then it is not defined by accomplishments, wealth, social status, or the praise of men.  Those are the common things that we attribute greatness to in this life.  If we want to live a great life, we need to have an eternal focus.  What does that mean?  When God’s people live in light of eternity, values change. They use their time and money more wisely, they place a higher premium on relationships and character instead of fame, or wealth, or achievements and their priorities are reordered; keeping up with trends, fashions, and popular values just don’t matter as much anymore. Paul said, “I once thought all these things were so very important, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.” (Phil. 3:7 NLT).

As I am working through the various decisions I have to make today, the actions I need to take and the way to prioritize my time, I want to be mindful of what is worthless.  Let’s be honest, a lot of things we are deeply invested in don’t really matter a whole lot in the grand scheme of things.  We worry about what people will think, how much money is in our bank account, or if we have what it takes, but those are momentary troubles and God wants us to broaden our view to see our lives in the light of eternity. Let’s live our lives more eternally minded and give priority to the things that really matter.