What is greatness?
In North American society we typically measure greatness with wealth, fame, Facebook friends or Twitter followers. Even in the church we usually measure greatness by the size of the congregation.
However, Jesus had a different measure for greatness and it did not have anything to do with what we usually measure greatness with.
In Mark 10:35-45, James and John ask Christ Jesus if they can sit at his right and left hand. They were asking for power and authority. We use similar expressions today for example “He is my right hand man.” But Christ took the conversation in a different direction.
In verse 42, Jesus contrasts the leaders of the 1st century with true greatness. Christ Jesus probably had in mind Pontius Pilate, the Herods, the Roman Senate, and the Caesars. These leaders were self-focused, abusive, and evil. In many ways they are not that much different from our political leaders today – in whatever party. It seems that many leaders are more concerned about building their own wealth and managing their own reputations then they are concerned about serving the people. It was much the same way in the 1st century.
In verses 43-44, Christ spells out what greatness is. Greatness is serving others. Greatness is someone who puts other people before themselves. Greatness is humility. This is a far cry from what society measures greatness with. Whether it’s the sports world, the music world, the business world, or the political world – humility is usually missing.
But according to Christ serving one another is the measure of greatness.
Finally in verse 45, Christ speaks of the ultimate example. Christ, the King of kings and Creator of the world, came as a lowly human and served his people to the point of death to give his creation salvation. Christ is the ultimate example of greatness because he came to serve and not be served (cf. Philippians 2:1-11).
It is in humility, following the pattern of Christ, that we too can be great.
Try and think of Christ’s measure for greatness the next time someone uses the word great. Does it match? Does it fit?
I find it hard to be great as Jesus defines greatness. Wanting to serve others does not always come naturally. It is hard, but something we can practice with the help of the Holy Spirit inside of us.
Let us try to follow Christ’s pattern of serving – I think it will be great!