Today’s reading is Matthew 20
There are billions of people living on earth today. Those of us who live in developed countries have millions of signals clamoring for our attention. Phone calls, text messages, emails, social media, billboards, websites, tv shows, radio shows, books, magazines, newspapers, and, of course, other people in real life around us all insist that we stop whatever we’re doing and pay attention to them.
Getting attention is important. You won’t experience love without someone else’s attention, but you also won’t find a job or get promoted or generate new leads for your business or find new friends without getting others to pay attention to you. And, once you have someone’s attention, the message you convey is, “Choose me! I’m great” or “I’m more helpful” or “I’m better” in some way than the person you have now. This kind of self-selling is essential to moving up in the world.
We might be tempted to think that it is necessary to sell ourselves to God, too. After all, there are billions of people in the world and many of them are trying to get his attention. Once we’ve trusted Christ, we still may be tempted to promote ourselves within his church either to gain notoriety for ourself or our cause or to try to earn God’s favor. James and John (“the sons of Zebedee” in verse 20, see Mark 10:35) tried this. They even enlisted the help of their mother to get Jesus’ attention. And they came with a big ask: “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” Wow! “Make us your vice-regents, Jesus. That’s all we’re asking for.” Talk about self-promotion.
Jesus responded by alluding to the cost of following him, namely to “drink the cup I am going to drink” (v. 22). Without knowing at all what he meant, they affirmed their ability to do the job in verse 23. Jesus knew that they would indeed suffer just as he would suffer, but he declined to appoint them to the positions they wanted (v. 23). Their request, however, miffed the other disciples and created a teaching moment for Jesus. He agreed that the way of this world is a way of self-promotion and heavy-handed authority (v. 25) but taught that this approach was inappropriate and backward in his kingdom (v. 26a). Instead of promoting ourselves, Jesus commanded us to humble ourselves. He told us that the way to advance in his kingdom was to take on the role of a slave (v. 27). When we act this way, we mirror the servant’s heart of Christ himself who acted as a slave and sacrificed his life to save us (v. 28).
We are disciples of Jesus, but we have different gifts, different callings, different opportunities and responsibilities. Living like a servant, then, means different things for each one of us. But Christ’s command to live this way should be the motivation behind what we do and the goal for whatever we do. Think about your life–your family, our church, your workplace, and everything else. What does it look like to be a servant for the Lord Jesus Christ in your life?