…but whoever desires to be great among you, let him be your servant. (Matt. 20:26b)
We live in such a competitive culture. Our entertainment is filled with sports, reality shows, “Biggest Losers”, best Chefs, Survivors, and on and on… It’s part of our nature to be competitive. Where does that come from? I believe it comes from our natural desire to be first. That desire compels us to be competitive. And, it’s often expressed in our tendency to be comparative.
We’re constantly measuring ourselves against others, or others against ourselves. Because “I” want to be first, I scan the environment around me to compare how everyone else is doing. If they’re not doing so well, I feel pretty good about myself. If they’re all doing better, I either push harder to be better, or I give up and find another group to compare myself with. The Bible describes this as “self-ish-ness; we’re self-centered. We constantly get fooled seeing the “grass” that always looks greener on the other side of the street and we’re often dissatisfied with how it’s going with us. Why? Perhaps it’s the way we were raised; or the way we’re raising our children.
The mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus to ask if He could do her a favor. After all, it’s “Who you know”, isn’t it? She wanted her two sons to be seated on Jesus’ left and right hand in His Kingdom. Surely her two sons would have it made if only they could achieve that high position of honor and power. Now, she wasn’t a bad mother and they weren’t bad sons. However, they misunderstood how things work in God’s Kingdom (both in Heaven and on Earth).
Jesus shares two important points with her. First, He tells her that there is a cost associated with our position in the Kingdom. This is what He meant when He asked, “Are you able to drink from the cup I am about to drink…” (v22)? Oh yes, there is a price to pay to be in the “highest” position in God’s Kingdom. Secondly, He said that those positions were reserved for the ones the Father has prepared them. He further explained that the Kingdom basically didn’t work that way. The Kingdom of God doesn’t work in the same way things work in the “world.” Hard work, striving for political influence; hobnobbing with the right crowd; being seen with the right people in the right place, at the right time; and on and on… This may be how things work in the corporate jungle, but not the Kingdom. Yet, there are those who try to operate within the Kingdom the way they do in the world. This attitude and behavior have a corruptive impact on the Kingdom and the Community of Faith.
No, to be great in the Kingdom requires that we become the servant of others – THE SERVANT OF EVERYONE ELSE. Servants are often overlooked, under-recognized, over-worked and under-appreciated. In the world, that’s enough to quit. But, in the Kingdom, that makes for PROMOTION! To where will you be promoted? The position that God the Father has already designated for you. He already has it reserved for you. Will that be at the top or at the bottom? Here’s a secret, aim for the bottom!
I wonder if Zebedee’s sons were still interested in becoming the greatest. No, they just concentrated on SERVING. They left the ‘greatness’ to the Father. So, will you serve if there’s nothing in it for you now? Will you labor though there is no recognition; no plaque with your name on it? Will you give even if there will never be a pew with your family’s name on it? These questions test all of us.
Beloved, let’s serve the Lord and be the “unprofitable” servants we are. At the end of the day we will say, “Lord, we have only done that which was our duty to do.” Eternity’s morning will tell who the ‘greatest’ among us were while we were serving at the bottom here on earth. There is no competition in the Kingdom, just servants. The Great One is the Lord, Jesus Christ – and that’s all that really matters.
May the Lord bless you in your service to Him.