About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Which of us is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Matthew 18:1
It was about that time that the mother of the Zebedee brothers came with her two sons and knelt before Jesus with a request. “What do you want?” Jesus asked. She said, “Give your word that these two sons of mine will be awarded the highest places of honor in your kingdom, one at your right hand, one at your left hand.” Matthew 20:20-21
James and John wanted greatness for themselves. Their mother wanted it for them (and herself) as well. Jesus’ followers today are no different either. We all seek greatness for ourselves. We want respect and recognition, along with a little applause. But Jesus was (and still is) seeking a different type of greatness – greatness for His Father, not Himself. It is greatness defined in an entirely different way.
“I tell you, of all who have ever lived, none is great than John. Yet even the most insignificant person in the Kingdom of GOD is greater than he is!” Luke 6:28
Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two pennies. “I assure you, He said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.” Luke 21:2-4
Both John the Baptist and the Widow would not be considered to be great people in our society. They were poor in worldly goods, but very rich in godliness, and that is what made them great. Our culture, and our Church, has a flawed foundational problem in how we define greatness. We think great people are those who hold prominent positions, draw large crowds, write best-selling books, give big donations, get their faces on magazine covers and silver screens, and win the most championships. Thus, our thinking is the problem, and we need to repent (change it) in regards to what greatness really is. We need to turn around and reform our attitudes and actions.
True greatness is not a place of affluence, accomplishment, or advantage. It is not a matter of getting the most, gaining the most, nor grabbing the most. Greatness is associated with sacrificing for, sharing with, and serving others. It is demonstrated by compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness – all traits of Jesus (Colossians 3:12-13). Jesus was also characterized by His meekness, which was mistakenly confused as weakness. But meekness is far from weakness. Meekness is confident, certain, assertive, gentle, humble, powerful control. Meekness doesn’t have to talk or act big, since it has nothing to fear or prove.
Few people thought of greatness when they saw Jesus two thousand plus years ago, and few people think of greatness concerning Him now. That’s because He spent His time touching lepers, healing the disabled, caring for the troubled, encouraging the outcasts, hugging the children, and spreading the GOOD NEWS message of His salvation – all the stuff that we don’t like to do. For we really don’t like Jesus stuff, and we don’t value the people He spent His time serving or spreading the Message He shared.
We don’t even go near the diseased – let alone touch them.
We don’t associate with people who are disabled.
We don’t have time for little kids.
We don’t interact with homeless people.
We don’t inconvenience ourselves by caring for orphans and widows.
While we try to flaunt, force, and finagle greatness, Jesus’ example is serving greatness.
So Jesus got them together to settle things down. He said, “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage.” Matthew 20:25-28
In light of Jesus’ perfect example, true greatness seems to be this: willingly and cheerfully looking for opportunities to do the dirty work of sacrificing for, sharing with, and serving those in our society who have been labeled as problems, defined as troubled, and viewed as unnecessary – and do this for the honor, praise, and glory of our Father in Heaven.
May you and I strive for greatness today and everyday!