Summary: Is there anything wrong with wanting to be great?
OPEN: One of Dr. Seuss’s more famous poem is called “Yertle the Turtle”
“ On a far away island of Salamasond,
Yertle the turtle was king of the pond.
A nice little pond. It was clean. It was neat.
The water was warm, there was plenty to eat.
Until - one day - the king of them all
decided the kingdom he ruled was too small.
‘I’m a ruler of all that I see.
But I don’t see enough and that’s the trouble with me.’
‘With this stone for a throne I am too low down
I cannot look down upon the places beyond.’
So Yertle the turtle king lifted his hand,
and Yertle the turtle king gave a command.
He ordered nine turtles to swim to his stone
and, using these turtles, he built a new throne.
He made each turtle stand on another’s back;
and he piled them all up in a 9 turtle stack.
Then Yertle climbed up. He sat down on the pile.
What a wonderful view! He could see ‘most a mile!
‘All mine!’ Yertle cried. ‘Oh the things I now rule.
I’m king of a cow. I’m king of a mule!
I’m king of a house! And, what’s more, beyond that
I’m king of a blueberry bush and a cat!
I’m Yertle the Turtle! Oh, marvelous me!
For I am the ruler of all that I see!’”
As the poem progresses, Yertle wants to be more and more powerful. He wants to rise higher so that he can have more - to see and to rule over. Then, he notices the moon rising above him as the night approaching. And looking at the moon, he says:
“‘What’s THAT?’ snorted Yertle. ‘Say, what IS that thing
That dares to be higher than Yertle the King?
I shall not allow it! I’ll go higher still!
I’ll build my throne higher! I can and I will!
I’ll call some more turtles. I’ll stack ‘em to heaven!
I need ‘bout 5000, 600 and 7!’”
And then as he starts to get that done - in an echo of God’s statement that “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18) - the bottom turtle burps, and the entire tower of turtles come tumbling down leaving Yertle the Turtle as the King of nothing but mud.
APPLY: When you compare the story of Yertle the Turtle with the story told here in Luke 9 (the same story that is told in Matthew 18 and Mark 9) you find that the disciples had become Yertles. They are motivated by the same mindset that drives the king of the turtles.
1. Yertle the Turtle wanted to be the greatest in his kingdom. And the disciples wanted to be considered the greatest in God’s Kingdom.
2. Yertle didn’t care about the other turtles… they weren’t as important as he. And each of the disciples cared less for the others than they do for themselves, for they were more important (in their own eyes) than the others.
ILLUS: They were acting almost like a couple of Richard Nixon’s aides back in June 1974. Nixon’s administration was falling apart due to the Watergate scandal so, to divert everyone’s attention from that, he planned a trip to Russia and Italy and two of his closest aides came along… Alexander Haig and Ron Ziegler.
Even tho’ Nixon’s presidency was collapsing, these two men were concerned with which of them was the most important man in his administration. In fact, their rivalry became so intense that (during the trip) each of them had a team that actually measured, down to the inch, … the distance from THEIR beds to President Nixon’s! They figured that the closer they were to Nixon’s bed, the more important they were.
These men were both Yertles.
They both wanted positions of importance and influence, and they sought those objectives to the point of absurdity.
But as I was thinking about their story it suddenly occurred to me that Haig and Ziegler weren’t all the much different than many of you and I. Almost all of us want to be valuable, to be important, to have influence. And there’s not a thing wrong with that.
The problem doesn’t lie with the DESIRE to be valuable/ important/ influential. The problem lies with how we go about getting those things.
Look with me to Luke 9:46:
“An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest.”
Now notice what Jesus says at the end of verse 48 - “…he who is least among you all— he is the greatest.”
Or, as Jesus said in Matthew 23:11 “The greatest among you will be your servant.”
So, can you become a great person in the Kingdom?
(wait for response)