SERVE | Mark 9:30-50
Being a Mama of four, I hear it all the time. “I want the bigger piece of the granola bar! His smoothie has more in it!” Or, most recently, as we’ve been combating the flu, “I want my elderberry syrup first!”
Parenting will often reflect our own sinful nature in its most stripped down and simple terms. Pride, selfishness, and jealousy are rampant. And when it is so obvious, it is easy to pick it out and redirect our little ones and give the appropriate “first will be last” lesson.
But it isn’t only children who struggle with it, is it?
It sneaks up on me sometimes. I feel a little catch in my heart that I know must be checked. I realize that I was seeking my own greatness instead of God’s. I confused true godliness with being publicly seen as Godly by other people. Maybe I liked to have that association and reputation, and I craved man’s approval. I wanted to be seen as great. When I feel my heart tempted by my own greatness, I need to stop. I need to humble myself, and remember the service and sacrifice that has been done for me, and follow Christ’s lead. Serve.
“If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (v.35)
Jesus confronts his disciples’ prideful hearts as they argue over their greatness. He calls them out, asking them not to be childlike in an immature sense, but to have the humility to serve even a child. Jesus teaches that the heart of a true disciple is a servant. A heart not focused on getting ahead. Not being the best in the room. Not having the most followers or getting the most likes. Not looking to the side with eyes of judgment. These are all matters of the heart. He clarifies that in what we do, we are to do it with a humble heart. No one modeled this better than Christ.
A humble heart also lets other people live out their God-given gifts and abilities without judgement or condescension. In verse 38, the disciples see a Jesus-following man casting out demons in Jesus’ name, and they complain saying, “Hey Jesus, what is up with this guy casting out demons. We told him to stop. He’s not one of us.” And Jesus shut them down pretty quickly. How dare you? If he is following Jesus, he is an ally. And don’t you dare cause him to stumble because of your pride.
When we don’t seek our own greatness, we can encourage others in their god-glorifying gifts and calling.
Serving Jesus is the call on each of our lives, but it will likely look very different for different people and in different seasons. Some of us will be at home with kids, some of us will be serving in workplaces, some of us will have large platforms with many listening ears, and some of us will be doing the very small acts of service that nobody ever sees. We will be tempted to look at those around us and compare and judge by our standards. Jesus warns us against that here. If we are living our life in servitude to Jesus, we are on the same team.
What if, instead of judgment, we prayed for our sister’s ministry?
What if, instead of belittling, we said “you’re the right one for the job”?
What if, instead of jealousy, we gave thanks for the different parts of this body of Christ?
What if we celebrated the activity of God all around us?
Because that is the whole point. None of this is about us. It was the first trick Satan pulled and he’s been pulling it ever since. He would love for us to think that our own greatness mattered more than God’s glory. When we approach with a humble heart, we see clearly that it is all about God’s goodness and grace for us. Jesus points out that even our hands, feet, and eyes do not matter as much as a life fully devoted to Christ. He gave it all, and so he gets our all. God is jealous for us to have a fully devoted heart. A heart not looking around to make sure we get a place in the game. But to see that we already have a place as His child and that this title is the only one that matters.