The NBA Playoffs and God’s Goat

We are again in the season of the NBA playoffs and the age-old question is once again being batted around. Who is the Goat (Greatest of All Time)? In recent years the debate has been between Jordan and Lebron. But you can’t forget Kobe, Magic, Bird, and Duncan.

But I am struck that this type of argument is only held in certain circles. You never hear questions about the greatest country singer of all time. Or who is the greatest guitar player. You don’t hear debates about who is the greatest philosopher or ballet dancer.

It seems to be part of human nature to want to be great, but the enemy has rooted himself in some contexts to an even larger measure by quantifying greatness as the only obtainable goal.  Shaq was a 15-time all-star and won a fist full of rings but all that is irrelevant because he is not the greatest. Who benefits when we tear people down to make another great?

Part of the reason Jesus was so great was that He never entered these meaningless contests. He refused to list His top 5 greatest and never put Himself on any goat list. He quietly went about His business demonstrating to the people in the margins of society that the people who were considered powerful in society has no lasting power. He taught His followers that the truly great people are the people who flourished enough to make others great.

Jesus saw past the way culture wants to pit people against each other even when their only identity is found in which sports team they follow. It seems crazy to Americans when soccer fans get into physical altercations over their teams, but let’s be real, fighting over land, fame, and wealth is no less meaningless.

While walking toward Jerusalem and preparing for His death, the disciples themselves were arguing about which of them were the greatest. Some tried to curry favor so Jesus could put them in a place of greatness, but Jesus already showed them what greatness looks like.

To be great is not to have the most money or the biggest house, it’s flourishing enough spiritually and emotionally to kneel down and serve someone. It’s that person who can put their ego to the side and tell a coworker that their failure doesn’t define them.

It’s the mother who has figured that crazy mothering thing out, telling the frazzled mom in the restaurant that it took her a while to figure it out as well. Greatness is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking about other people more than you think of yourself. This is what Jesus did.

He saw the competition of the world, how they liked to pit people against one another, and opted out of that entire system.

When the Jesus was challenged to defend himself to Pilate, Jesus declined. He had no need to exert His dominance. He had no desire to make Himself great in the eyes of others through great oratory or displays of wonder. He had nothing to prove and no ego to protect.

Who is the greatest basketball player ever? My answer is, why does it matter? Aren’t they all better than you and me?

Imagine if we looked at the world this way. Imagine if we stopped seeing who we are better than, or seeing how we compare to others, and instead looking for how we can help share the little bit of greatness we have with the world around us.

I feel like that is the greatness Jesus is looking for.

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