But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Matthew 23:11
Greatest – Yeshua was a great rabbi; the greatest rabbi who ever lived. But he wasn’t famous. The difference is crucial if we are going to understand our role in the Kingdom. The rabbis taught that “authority buries those who assume it.” They exhorted disciples to “love work, hate lordship, and seek no intimacy with the ruling power.” Just as Yeshua taught, they saw that the desire to assume control over others was a mark of ungodliness and a terrible danger to spiritual sensitivity. God calls reluctant leaders; those men and women who are quite certain that they are not qualified and who would rather not have the job. Why? Because they know that their usefulness depends entirely on God’s grace. Woe to the throng that follows the man who desires to lead. His ego will bury them all.
Yeshua expanded the teaching of the rabbis with this simple statement. The greatest will be a servant to all. The Greek is megas. The Mega-Man, the superhero of the Kingdom, is the least among us; the one at the bottom lifting others, the one in the shadow, not the limelight. How hard it is for us to really hear this! Standing in the pulpit, the center of attention or running the company or directing the program, we are constantly tempted to let just a little of the light fall on us. Oh, we deflect the compliments with quick acknowledgments of God’s help, but deep inside there is always that little bit of interest in being recognized for how wonderful we are. It is such a subtle trap. Andy Warhol once commented that everyone wants fifteen minutes of fame. He was, unfortunately, right. Just tune into the latest “reality” TV show and you will see people clamoring for a moment of stardom. A culture fixated on celebrities is a culture far, far away from the things of God.
Yeshua’s observation reveals something else about our popularized version of Christianity. Servants are background people. Even as a group, they do not command the spotlight. They go quietly about the Kingdom’s work, seeking anonymity because they know that God’s grace is their only operating power. Just as God’s hand proceeds secretly through human history in order to accomplish His purposes, so His children remain the hidden heralds of His power. Once in awhile, God promotes a reluctant leader to a place of prominence, but that leader remains a servant, not a master, because he has spent forty years in the wilderness tending dumb sheep. God doesn’t hire on the basis of a resume of accomplishments. He chooses humility, demonstrated in a life of being unimportant.
One of the systems of this world that Paul pleads with us to avoid, is the desire for fame. To seek fame is to accept the offer that Satan gave to Yeshua. “Serve me and all these kingdoms I will give to you.” He offers every follower of the Way a version of the same promise. Of course, the offer is modified because we are not as worthy a catch as the Son would have been. We settle for far less, don’t we? Today is a good day to review your “fame” quotient, your desire to be someone, to be recognized, to move out of the shadows. The path to greatness is to become invisible. Is that your direction?
Topical Index: character, servant, greatest, Matthew 23:11, megas, celebrity