By: Dr. Troy Sammons

Kate our middle daughter is currently a homeschooling third grader, her sisters and her are diligent students, most of the time, but there is the occasional time where dad, the “pinch hitter” teacher, needs to look over the math worksheets to make sure that I am keeping up what’s going on.   In general, I have no strong aversion to math as it is practical and methodical and useful to everyday life, but there is one type of problem that brings back childhood trauma every time I spot one.  

It’s the pesky, and simple, and all so confusing greater than and less than problems.   My head starts spinning as I try and manipulate the sign, all the time trying to remember back to how I was taught the simple antidotes like the greater than sign being an alligator.  My problem is, does the alligator eat the bigger or smaller number? and is its mouth to bite to the left or the right?   I have to laugh at myself that such a simple math could cause such a traumatic experience that I panic when I look at a problem.

But maybe it’s the same in life?

I would contend that if we get life right it is because we understand our greater and less than equation.

John the Baptist, in a conversation with some of his own disciples gives us the Word on this in John 3:29-31.  In the passage, he is reflecting on the scenario before him of Jesus surrounded by followers that were formerly followers of John and he is rejoicing at the scene.

The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.

He who comes from above is above all. …

In another version, the verse reads, “He must become greater greater, I must become less less.”

What caught my attention first was the concept of this possession of complete joy that John has in the situation.   Of all people, John who had a quite a following bows out of the scene with great humility and grace as he watches Jesus fulfill what John was preaching.   He finds the greatest most complete joy in the scene where he is losing all of his fame to his cousin.   His concluding statement is a command on the greater than and less than equation of life.  “He must become greater greater and I (John) must become less less. “

As we look at this statement in our own life I would contend in our quest to find complete joy in life, no matter the situation, we must order our equation in the same way. Jesus must be greater greater and we must be less less.  If we look at related passages that have a similar theme, it takes us to passages that emphasize abiding in Jesus, fellowshipping in the presence of the Lord and having a deep intimacy with Him as we walk through life.  Our greater than sign will never be put into perfect perspective without spending time with our Creator daily.   A devotional author and missionary Dick Brogden put it this way, “Extravagant daily time with Jesus— in His Word and in His presence through prayer— is the single most productive thing we can do. It is the most effective way to bless others.”  For our joy to be complete it must start here with putting God is his proper place as the greater moment by moment until the equation is no longer confusing.  I find in my own life my equation wakes up confused, and constantly gets rearranged by life’s events.  It takes resetting and refocusing at the foot of the cross to restore the order.   It is even impossible to set the second half of the equation, the less less side of it in its proper place until the greater than sign is correctly directed.

As we consider the theme for CVM this year of “Rejoice Always,” complete joy comes when the greater and less than signs are correct.  He must become greater greater, I must become less less.



Brogden, Dick. Live Dead Joy: 365 Days of Living and Dying with Jesus (Kindle Locations 623-624). Salubris Resources. Kindle Edition.

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