How to be Great

“whoever would be great among you must be your servant…”
(Matthew 20:26)

As I was deleting the junk email that made it into my inbox this morning, I came upon another “Get Rich Quick” scheme.  Usually, I delete these without a second thought, but for some reason I thought I’d watch this one to see just what they were selling.

Did you know that it is possible to turn on $50 investment into $13 million?  Well, apparently it is (and if the fed would only use these tactics, we’d erase the debt forever).  A simple, low risk investment in certain “high-flying stocks” are guaranteed to double overnight.  Soon you could find yourself driving that expensive Italian Sports Car, taking that luxury vacation you’ve always dreamed of, and even securing your children’s education.  Though the advertisement never gave any details on the investments, it’s billed as a “safe, easy way to get rich.”

For those of you in the know, what was being advertised is something called a “Penny Stock:” securities that trade below $5 per share and are not listed on a national exchange.  These stocks don’t cost much money and promise big profits, but they are also a good way to lose money.  This particular email sounded a lot like a “pump and dump,” where promoters first purchase large quantities of stock, artificially inflating the share price through false and misleading positive statements, then dumping the stock when more people start buying in, walking away with all the profit, leaving the stock worthless.

Leaving the finance lesson aside, I thought the email was particularly interested when considered in the light of Jesus’ teaching on attaining true greatness in Matthew 20:26-28.  On the one hand, we hear the world say, for a mere $50 you could finally have the power, wealth, and success that you’ve always wanted; while in Scripture we hear Jesus say, if you really want to be great in this world, become a servant to others.

At first glance, what Jesus says doesn’t seem to play out.  If you really want to help others, to be a great leader, don’t you have to have the resources, the wealth, the ability to help?  Think of all the good you could do if you just invested now and acquired a “reasonable” sense of financial security.  Once you’ve got your first million in the bank, then you can really help those in need.  Right?

Wrong.  For Jesus, it is precisely the other way around.  If you want to be great, be a servant.  If you want to be first, be the slave.  This life, the life of discipleship, the life of obedience, the life of following Christ is not a climb up the ladder of success.  It is not the coming together of the powerful, the successful, the beautiful, and the highly talented who have something to offer the world.  No.  The life of faith begins when we trust the word of God that tells us that we are dead in our sins and have nothing to offer God or the world, but, in His grace and mercy, God brings us to life and fills us with His treasure “to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor 4:7).

Jesus gave himself as an example of the transforming power of this kind of service, saying, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Here are just a couple of ways how:

His service revealed the God’s redeeming and saving love.

Romans 5:8 “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Ephesians 2:4–5 “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved”

In His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus revealed for the world the saving power of God’s love to deliver His people from death to life, from wrath to blessing, from sin to glory in the strength of His Spirit.

His service demonstrated the joy of obedience.

John 15:10-11 “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

Jesus lived in perfect obedience to the will of God, loving God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving His neighbor as Himself.  And yet this obedience, and “obedience even to the point of death on a cross,” was not a burden, but a joy for Jesus.  The Psalmist says, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).  Jesus’ greatest delighted in, rejoiced in, the will of His Father, and His desire to glorify the Father was fulfilled.

His service revealed God’s glory.

John 12:27–28 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

John 17:4 “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.”

2 Corinthians 4:6 “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

The completed work of Christ, His atoning sacrifice and glorious resurrection to create a people set apart for God, and the way the Christ continues to equip and empower His church by His Spirit, reveals the glory of God.

If you want to be great – that is, if you want to offer something to the world that will really transform the world – serve in the love of Christ in a way that will reveal the glory of God; for when God is glorified, our hearts are satisfied.

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About reveds

Occupation: Pastor, Ebenezer Presbyterian Church, Lennox, SD Education: BS - Christian Education, Sterling College; MDiv. - Princeton Theological Seminary Family: Married, with Four children. Hobbies: Running (will someday run a marathon), Sci-Fi (especially Doctor Who and Sherlock), Theater, and anything else my kids will let me do.
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