Jesus told the disciples, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” (Mark 10:43-44)
When we consider great men throughout history, we tend to think of them as talented over-achievers who accomplished great things. Is being considered “great” a common desire among all men? Are all men ingrained with the desire to do or be something remarkable — to receive praise and read your name in books of history?
Men are competitive. We do like to win, conquer, or achieve the moniker of greatness. In this masculine pursuit, there are pitfalls for success and for failure, especially when we follow the world’s definition of greatness.
God has a definition of greatness that is much different from the world. To be great, one must be a servant. In discussing this topic with a group of men, being a servant wasn’t mentioned as an attribute of how the world views greatness. Maybe because being a servant goes directly against our human nature. Even the disciples of Jesus struggled with this concept.
In the verses leading up to Mark 10:43-44, James and John asked Jesus for positions of prestige and power — much to chagrin of the remaining disciples. Was this request out of line? Is this not our same desire, but perhaps lack the courage to ask? The disciples didn’t quite get it and to be honest, neither do we.
May I offer the following as a definition of a disciple — A believer in Jesus Christ who serves others, not his own interests, both voluntarily and sacrificially.
The greatest example of true servanthood is found in Jesus. Even though he had the authority and the power to do anything he wanted, Jesus became a servant in behalf of the world. For we read in Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
This servant-attitude is what Jesus expects of us – fully recognizing the ongoing conflict between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of earth. The question before us is, “Which kingdom are we to serve?” To have a servant-attitude reflects the presence of Christ in us, but there is something more.
We have been chosen by God to have faith and to be his servants on earth.
Jesus also reminds us that there are rewards associated with being chosen or set apart. For instance, Jesus tells his disciples that when you go to a banquet, don’t be tempted to seat in a place of honor. Instead, take the lowly position at the banquet table and when the host comes and places you at a position of honor. It will not only be more meaningful, but also more acceptable among the men already seated.
True humility is not only the mark of a disciple, but is also publicly accepted and admired. But this really can’t be our motivation.
Becoming a disciple of Christ goes beyond becoming a servant, but being a slave. To become a servant is a choice. To become a slave means to lose your self, your freedom, your own identity. By faith, we are crucified with Christ and we no longer live, but Christ lives in us. He is our Master. By losing our self to Christ, we gain everything.
After hearing James and John’s request for a position of prestige, Jesus tells them, “These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” (Mark 10:40)
Success, riches or greatness, if granted to the unprepared, can ruin a man. No wonder Jesus tells us that it is more difficult for a camel to go through an eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. For these reasons, we allow God to place us in situations to do great things for His glory, but only after a time of preparation. In the meantime, the Lord desires for all of us men to learn how to be a true, sacrificial servant, so that we may be effectively used to advance God’s kingdom. Are you ready?