In Matthew 23:11-12, Jesus says, “The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
Jesus offers this in the context of negatively describing the scribes and Pharisees in verse 5 as, “Those who do all their deeds to be seen by others.”
It seems a desire for greatness is innate in each of us. To be sure, the path is different in all of us, but the destination “greatness” is largely the same. I believe this desire for greatness comes from God, but I also believe that sin twists that desire into something that is self-serving rather than self-giving.
The desire and need to be great will always exist, but we can to better than stumble along in our efforts to achieve it. To do that, however, we may need to redefine what it means to be great, like Jesus did here in Matthew 23.
What so many of us celebrate and strive for day after day is a distorted version of success, with all of its cultural trappings, that pales in comparison to the greatness God desires for our lives.
A few streets along the way to the greatness we too often long for in our shortsightedness are power, freedom, selfish gain, approval of people, and self-gratification. That is a short trip to pain, heartache, loneliness and destruction. Some of the streets along the way towards greatness as defined by God are submission, responsibility, selfless giving, approval of God, patience and self-control.
The road to greatness God’s way is long and tough but well worth the trip.
In order to truly be great in the eyes of God, we must lay down our own ideas of what it is. Our God is not small, so let’s not make the desire for greatness, that I believe He put in each of us, to be limited to some self serving dream come true that is some concoction of our own narrow-mindedness. Let’s humble ourselves and serve others.
Daniel is a great example for us. He was a very wise man, courageous as can be. His greatness began, however, when he purposed in his heart not to defile God. His convictions were evident when you consider his life of prayer and service to the king. In his humility, he was neither weak nor passive, and even his enemies could find no fault in him except his fearless worship of God. Another wonderful is example is Joshua. Joshua was a great and courageous warrior. He served Moses for over 40 years before leading the people into the Promised Land. He became great, not when he won battles or crossed through the Jordan River, but he became great because he meditated on God’s Word day and night so that he might have success.
The greatest example of being great in a God-honoring, humble way is Jesus Christ. Though being God, He emptied Himself and took on flesh. He did not demand what He rightfully deserved. He submitted Himself to God the Father and trusted the Father to exalt Him according to His will and plan. What an example to follow.
God is worth trusting, so let’s get to work.