Where Have All The Giants Gone?

by Wayne Greeson

"Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world like a Colossus, and we petty men walk under his huge legs and peep about to find ourselves dishonorable graves." (Cassius speaking of Julius Caesar, Julius Caesar, Act 1, Scene 2).

Before the Flood Moses noted, "There were giants in the earth in those days and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown" (Gen. 6:4).

By Caesar's time, those giants in body had long disappeared from the face of the earth, but another type of giant still walked the earth. In Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar, Cassius describes Caesar and his growing popularity to Brutus as a giant. Truly some men appear as giants on the stage of world history while the rest of us seem petty and small in comparison.

We read of this kind of giant, men of renown, throughout the history of God's people. We gape in awe at the towering examples of the men and women recorded within the pages of the Bible. We cheer to read of the bestriding Colossuses in Hebrew's "Hall of Faith."

Outside of those "giants" recorded in God's Word, we often marvel at those mighty men of old, the men of renown that brought about the "Restoration Movement" over 150 years ago. We walk and peep out from under the huge legs of men like Alexander Campbell, Walter Scott, Barton W. Stone, Moses Lard, Robert Milligan, J. W. McGarvey and others.

In the current century, certain men still loom large in our minds but their stature does not quite measure up to the dizzying heights of those who lived just a generation before. In fact, the closer we get to our own time and our own generation, fewer and fewer giants come to mind and their size rapidly diminishes.

Rose-Colored Glasses

When I was younger, I idealistically viewed "big name preachers" as "giants." These men loomed large in my eyes as I heard and read their names. Distance, unfamiliarity and popularity among men cast a rosy tint over my image of these men.

We tend to view those we admire through rose-colored glasses. The further we look back in history, the bigger men grow in our eyes. Biographies are often written by admirers who tend to ignore or gloss over the faults, sins and shortcomings of their subjects.

Shrinking Giants

As we scan the horizon there are no looming Colossuses bestriding the brotherhood today. When we look around at our contemporaries we see no real giants, only flawed men of ordinary stature. Where did all the giants go?

Giants don't really disappear or die out, they shrink. The closer we get to our "giants," the more familiar we become with our "heroes," the smaller they get. Cassius' comment of Caesar as a Colossus is partly satirical. Others saw and made Caesar out to be a giant, a god, but not Cassius. Cassius was too familiar with Caesar, he had seen his weakness and he knew his flaws.

Over the past few years, I have seen "giants" shrink into midgets as familiarity has exposed their weaknesses, flaws and sins. "Mighty" editors have dwindled into cowardly politicians, unrepentant liars and divisive slanderers. "Powerful" preachers have diminished into petty party men and even shameless adulterers.

Dangers and Lessons from Giants

Of course there are still those who fancy themselves as "giants" and those who agree with their opinion. This is a real danger. Paul warned, no one should "think of himself more highly than he ought to think" (Rom. 12:3) nor "think of men above that which is written" (1 Cor. 4:6; 2 Cor. 12:6). "Therefore let no man glory in men" (1 Cor. 3:21). To this end, God's Word does not present Abraham, Moses, David, Peter, Paul and others as flawless superheroes or towering giants. Their sins are not glossed over, but plainly stated. They were ordinary men of faith each serving God in their own generation (Acts 13:36). Men who see themselves as "giants" are "lifted up with pride (and) fall into the condemnation of the devil" (1 Tim. 3:6). And those who worship them as "giants" march headlong into the same ditch (Matt. 15:14).

Don't misunderstand me. While I don't see any giants among us, I still know and admire many good, honest, righteous and humble servants of the Lord. These "plain ordinary" Christians are not "giants" in the eyes of the brotherhood, but in the eyes of the Lord they are His precious ones. Their names, lives, triumphs and deaths are not heralded in brotherhood papers, but their names are written in heaven.

True greatness in His kingdom is not bestriding the narrow brotherhood like a Colossus, but kneeling and humbly serving others as a lowly servant. "But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted" (Matt. 23:11-12).