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True Greatness

(Matthew 18:1-4; 20:17-28)

Lesson 7 -- first quarter 1999
January 17, 1999

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 1998, Christian Light Publications

Who is the greatest in your congregation? I don't want a philosophical answer, because in the context of today's lesson, we know what the right answers are. No, I'm after a the-way-it-really-is-around-here answer. Sadly, our answers often tend toward position (chairman of the board), accomplishment (writer of a dozen books), prestige (right connections) and such like. I wonder what kind of answer the disciples expected (or hoped) to get.

A friend recently informed me that our local Mission Board is now the most powerful group of men in our congregation. When I asked for an explanation of such a deduction, I got this rejoinder: "You guys handle a big chunk of the church's annual budget!" As the current chairman of this board, how I should I feel about such a perception? I can assure you that ego runs fairly strong competition with any proper response. But I can also tell you that I am dismayed that at least one person looks at the mission board and sees money handlers before he sees servants. Time for a heart check!!

OK, so we want to be the greatest, but in a good sort of way, right? So as we strive to be the greatest in our congregation, we strive to be humble servants of all, right? We know we shouldn't struggle to become the greatest via conventional human processes, so we'll take the less obvious route, right? Such figurings-out make you want to sigh. No wonder the Lord said "Except ye be converted"! We need a complete change of heart and value systems. We need to serve for love's sake. We need to serve others with the sole intent of blessing them and God, not for the ulterior motive of somehow achieving "The Greatest" status. Otherwise we only serve ourselves under the pretense of serving others.

Perhaps we also need a refresher course in the meaning and outworking of Christian humility. Humility is you instead of me. Just like service is "do for" instead of "get from." Quite refreshing, isn't it.

Now, did you ever wonder why the ten were so indignant against the two? I can imagine why I might have been indignant. "How childish, unspiritual and misfocused to be asking such a question!" Yeah, well, that kind of response reeks of self-satisfaction, at least. "Hey. They are trying to get the position and recognition I've been trying to line up for myself!" We don't always indulge in the most noble thoughts and values, do we? "Who do they think they are, wanting to lord it over me?!" We sometimes so seem to fear authority, at least the authority of others over us. Especially if they are familiar to us; especially if they are our peers. Yes, I can easily identify with the ten.

Just like I can identify with the two. Now that makes for another interesting question: Why do you suppose James and John wanted those positions? Why would you want them?

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