Monday, October 24, 2011

Upside-down greatness

"Jesus upbraids the scribes and Pharisees"
by Mathys Pool & Arnold Houbraken

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 23:1-22

TO CHEW ON: "But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant." Matthew 23:11

Jesus' teaching about greatness flew in the face of everything the prevailing culture taught. The "great" of their time—the scribes and Pharisees—burdened their followers with do's and don'ts but never lifted a finger to help them carry those loads (Matthew 23:4). They performed for an audience of admirers (Matthew 23:6). And they insisted on receiving due honour, deference and respect (Matthew 23:6-7).

Jesus, on the other hand, said things about greatness that were hard to swallow for those using their position to feed their egos.

  • He called his unconventional relative, John the Baptist, great (Matthew 11:11; Luke 7:28). And yet He said that the least person in the Kingdom of Heaven was greater than John.
  • When the disciples asked "Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?" Jesus beckoned a child to come over and presented the little one as the prototype of greatness. The great, He said, had the simple trust of the converted and the humility (need, dependence on God) of a child (Matthew 18:3-4).
  • When they argued about which of them was the greatest, Jesus told them true greatness proved itself by service (Mark 9:35). It wasn't the kind of greatness that forced compliance on underlings because of position, but rather served everyone (Mark 10:43-44).
  • It wasn't even a matter of proving that you were a great because you served, but also earning the label of great simply because you were least (Luke 9:48).

This is all fine and good for us to know in our heads. But when we're in a position of "greatness," and its demands hit home—we need to recruit workers, work out schedules, make phone calls, pitch in when people don't show up, stay till the end to make sure everything gets cleaned up—it's easy to feel stepped-on and sorry for ourselves. That is, until we remind ourselves, serving is exactly what being "great," in leadership or any position, is all about.

PRAYER: Dear God, please grow in me a servant's attitude, whether I lead or follow. Amen.

MORE: A "great" leadership story

Pete Wilson is one of the pastors of Cross Point Church in Nashville. When the biggest flood in their state's history hit on May 2, 2010, he led Cross Point Church to the front lines of the relief effort.

One of the things he took away from that day:

"Be willing to sacrifice first. Before asking others to sacrifice, first be willing to sacrifice yourself. If there are sacrifices to be made—and there will be—then leaders have to step up and make the greatest sacrifices themselves."

Read all of "Why Plan B is Often Your Greatest Opportunity As A Leader"

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