“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble.”
Greatness really isn’t glorious.
When I think of greatness, I usually think big! I imagine royalty, (especially the British sort) and pageantry. I think of servants and orders being given and followed without question. Lots of “Yes ma’am’s.” Gosh, that sounds nice. I envision someone like Princess Kate with a bevy of personal assistants making sure her dresses fit perfectly and that her stylish little hat is perched at the precise angle that accents her professionally applied “smoky eye.” She gets in her limo and is escorted to London’s finest restaurant where she dines with society’s elite, enjoying expensive wine and caviar while cameras capture it all and plaster her face all over every magazine, praising her etiquette and conversational expertise. Doesn’t that sound lovely?
And how about a spot of tea?
But I’ve been reading the book of Mark and, well, Jesus had a lot to say about true greatness. It’s simple, really. And it does not involve expensive restaurants.
Or a fabulous British accent.
That should not surprise me.
The disciples followed Jesus, often, in a state of confusion. They lived a life of sensory overload, witnessing miracles and events that most of us only dream of in today’s world. It was an honor to be in the company of the Messiah, to say the least. As the days went by and the crowds grew bigger the disciples began to forget exactly Who the crowds were there to see. They were riding the coattails of the Son of God and feeling pretty darn good about their position in society at the moment.
So Mark 9 tells us they were traveling with Jesus to Capernaum and they were talking amongst themselves. Actually, they were probably arguing. They were doing what my kids do at restaurants when we are all trying to be seated. They were jockeying for position.
“I call sitting by Dad!”
“It’s my turn!”
“Not fair! You sat by him last time!”
“You ALWAYS get to sit by him!”
(Notice they aren’t arguing over sitting by me. They are SO over me.)
Well, they thought they were keeping this conversation on the down-low, that Jesus wasn’t aware of their little power trip. How easily they forgot exactly WHO they were following down that dusty road.
Jesus turns to them and asks, “What were you talking about?”
Um, well, um…their eyes look down, embarrassed, because they know He knows and they are trying to figure out how to backpedal out of this one. Mark doesn’t tell us if they answered him. I don’t think they did. I think Jesus let his question hang in the awkward silence for a few seconds before letting them know he already knew the answer to the question he was asking.
Then he drops the bomb.
“If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” Then he called a child who was nearby and gently brought it to the center of the group of men. He makes sure they all get a good look at the little one, taking the child into His arms.
“Whoever receives one child, just like this one, in my name receives me. And whoever receives me doesn’t receive just me…he receives Him who sent me.” In other words, guys, you are all focused on the wrong thing.
God’s kingdom is the exact opposite of everything this world tells us is right and good and effective. It is upside down and inside out and we are wise to step back and observe how Jesus taught and what that should look like in our lives today. We are here to serve. We are here to love. We are here to gently shepherd our families and train them up in the ways of God, not expecting glory for ourselves in return. Our mission is simple, but it is not easy because it goes against everything society says is true and great.
Greatness is about humility and service. It is not about status or stuff. It is not about Pinterest-worthy decorating, housekeeping, or even efficiency. In fact, very often God will call us to be “ineffecient” and even “impractical” in the eyes of those around us. There may be six loads of laundry in my living room, waiting to be folded. My sink may be full of dirty dishes and the junk mail piled up on the kitchen counter. But the still, small voice of God whispers, “Stop.”
What if stopping means a lost opportunity to climb up the ladder of success? What if it means I look like an idiot and someone shows up, unanounced, at my front door? What if stopping means I put down the thing that would have been so great, such a boost to my career or position in ministry, and quietly do what God asked me to do that no one but He may ever see? It could mean spending long hours praying and interceding, cooking a meal, writing a note, or just snuggling a child who needs a little extra attention in the moment.
It could mean a million different things, but the point I am making is this: Who am I serving? What is my motivation for what I am doing? If I am piling on one responsibility after another, drowning in a sea of stress and sacrificing the peace in my home…why? Why am I doing this? What made me decide it was worth the price I (or my family) am paying? What if I drop the selfish ambition and focus on cultivating humility, serving my family and friends and knowing when to say no to things that often interfere in this sacred mission God has given to me?
In theory, this sound great, right? But the reality is I make a million little decisions every single day that scream to my loved ones, “There are a ton of things in my life more important than you!” They will know their worth to me by the choices I make and the way I serve, or don’t serve, them.
My husband deserves a wife who greets him with a smile and a kiss. He doesn’t need to hear all the things that went wrong the second he walks through the door after work.
My kids deserve the benefit of the doubt. So often I assume the worst and heap shame upon them for past mistakes when, in fact, they are just doing what normal kids do…trying to figure things out and making the same dumb mistakes I did along the way. I want the world to look at me and declare me successful when the truth is I am flying by the seat of my pants most of the time and I can take neither blame nor credit for how my kids turn out! My greatness is not measured by the lives of my children, the size of my house, the type of car I drive or the friends with whom I keep company. It is only measured by how much of myself (including opportunities for recognition) I literally murder in order to be the hands and feet of Jesus to a lost and dying world.
This takes guts. This takes strength. And it takes incredible humility, daily choosing to be a living sacrifice for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
I am tired of jostling for position, aren’t you? We make things so complicated, but Jesus never did that. He lived simply, humbly, and effectively. Let’s just plop down right where we are and feast together in His presence. I believe there really aren’t any bad seats in His house. I’ll scoot over for you. 🙂