Spiritual Success or Distress?
Quarter 2, Lesson 8

Lesson Eight

God's Avenue To Spiritual Significance

Texts: Matthew 18:1-6; 23:1-12; Luke 9:46-49

In every past age, people coveted success. People still covet success. The desire to be successful is the engine that drives the ambitions of mankind. In the attempt to be successful, people commit themselves to actions and behaviors that otherwise would never become a part of their lives. In the attempt to gain success, people neglect their greatest treasures.

In some ways, people's definition of success varies. The situation and circumstances of the individual shape his or her concept of success. What a poor person living in horrible circumstances considers success would never be considered success by a wealthy person living in opportune circumstances.

In some ways, people's definition of success is the same. Whatever the situation and circumstances, common definitions of success include at least one of these elements: power, position, money, or honor.

The pursuit of success is a search for personal significance. The person feels significant if he or she has power, or position, or money, or honor. The most common way to determine personal success is to measure personal significance. "How important am I? How essential am I? How indispensable am I? How many people realize that I am important, essential, or indispensable?"

If you want to locate people who are addicted to success and driven by ambition, where do you look? In government? They are there. In business? They are there. In "for profit" organizations? They are there. In "nonprofit" organizations? They are there. In volunteer organizations? They are there. In criminal enterprises? They are there. In the church? They are there. Such people exist in every human endeavor.

The church provides people who consider themselves disadvantaged the opportunity to pursue success. People who do not find personal significance in government, business, organizations, or enterprises either legal or criminal, can find opportunity for significance in the church. People whose craving for significance cannot be satisfied can pursue significance in the church. The church provides this opportunity for virtually anyone who craves it. Power can be generated through control. Leadership roles can be perverted into positions. Channeling contributions can create a sense of having money. Promoting oneself can become the avenue to honor. Too much occurring in the church is success-driven rather than service-driven.

Jesus' twelve disciples struggled with this problem. Many of Israel's religious leaders were the captives of this problem. It is no surprise that the problem still lives. It will always exist.

Matthew 18:1-6

  1. What question did the disciples ask Jesus (verse 1)?

  2. Before Jesus answered the question, what did he do (verse 2)?

  3. Give Jesus' opening statement (verse 3).

  4. Who would be greatest in the kingdom of heaven (verse 4)?

  5. Who received Jesus (verse 5)?

  6. What did Jesus say about the person who caused such believing, little ones to stumble (verse 6)?

Matthew 23:1-12

  1. To whom did Jesus give this lesson (verse 1)?

  2. Where did the scribes and Pharisees seat themselves?

    1. What does that mean?

    2. What does that tell us about their position of knowledge and authority?

  3. Jesus instructed his audience to do something and not to do something (verse 3).

    1. What were they instructed to do?

    2. What were they instructed not to do?

  4. What did they "tie up" or bundle together (verse 4)?

    1. What did they do with those bundles?

    2. How did they personally react to the bundles they made?

  5. What was the motive behind their religious acts (verse 5)?

    1. What were phylacteries? How did they "broaden" phylacteries?

    2. What did they do to the tassels on their outer garments?

  6. What four things did they love (verses 6, 7)?

  7. Why were disciples not to be called (verses 8-10):

    1. Rabbi?

    2. Father?

    3. Leaders [teachers, masters, probably our equivalent of professor]?

  8. Who would be the greatest (verse 11)?

  9. Give Jesus' statement about humility in your own words (verse 12).

Jesus' point in the first text about children is easily missed. Children in first century poverty-stricken Israel had little in common with children in advantaged, prosperous twenty-first century America. Jesus' lesson concerning children is best seen by contrasting them with the scribes and Pharisees. The believing, humble child was teachable. A trusting, unassuming nature had an open mind and heart. The arrogant, knowledgeable scribes and Pharisees were unteachable. These "successful, significant experts" assign burdens to the "unlearned."

Link to Teacher's Guide Quarter 2, Lesson 8

Copyright © 2000
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

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