The topological ordering of rivers is based on their distance from the source. The classic stream order is a “bottom up” hierarchy that awards the number “1” to the river with its mouth at the sea.
On their way to Capernaum a group of men had a heated discussion about their particular stream order. Who among them was closest to Jesus? They kept their voices down so Jesus wouldn’t hear what they were talking about. But then – Jesus had super-hearing. So He brought up the issue at dinnertime (Mark 9:33-35):
“They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’”
“Got it!” some might have thought to themselves. “I’m going to out-serve everybody. I’m going to be a super servant”
To make a point, Jesus hugged a child and put it in the middle, right in front of everybody. This child had not done anything in particular to be set apart as an example, but here it was, small and defenseless, enjoying a good hug while smiling a toothless grin at the twelve men. Jesus certainly got their attention, so He went on to explain (Mark 9:37):
“‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.’”
We live in a competitive world, but that is not how the kingdom of God works. Jesus brought a small child without any credentials to everybody’s attention illustrating that we do not need to be outstanding to stand out. – We already do in God’s mind.
Instead of being concerned about our recognition, let us rather recognize a need and let the person next to us become our concern. Caring is the genuine reason why we serve.