The disciples still do not understand Jesus’ predictions about his death. Instead, they are vying for position, arguing among themselves over who is greatest. Jesus sits – instructing them solemnly – to tell them that humility and service is the way to “be first” in the Kingdom of God. The whole episode helps us to understand the great Biblical theme that, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble”,
- The Root of Pride
What does it mean to be “first”? At the root of pride lies a good desire poisoned by sin. We all desire the life of God in which we live in harmony with God and all other created things, fulfilled through personal happiness, giving glory to God with our whole self and living to bless others. When we desire to be “first” this is actually the true good that we seek. Pride occurs when, through ignorance of God or lack of faith in Him, we seek to fulfil this desire in the wrong way. We reject God’s plan, the good of others or the possibility of our good being compatible with the good of others, and seek to serve ourselves instead. This puts us at odds with God and sets us off on a road that leads ultimately to a Satanic pride that would usurp God and rule over all others for its own glory.
- You Must Be Last
To be “last” means to submit to God in humility, trusting that he is able to fulfil us, and make happy, able to love him fully and able to bless others most. Christ is our pattern of this humility (cf. Phil 2). We exercise this humility when we trust his law, trust his providential care, trust the abilities, gifts and character he has given us, when we seek and diligently fulfil our vocations and accept the boundaries he sets for us as embodied creatures, not attempting to pervert the laws of nature in any way, e.g. through denying gender, perverting sexual norms, or even through attempting to practice things magic or fortune-telling . We should therefore seek to find out what we are truly good at and enable others to do the same, without falling into flattery, self-promotion or pride. A church should be a people especially harmonious, free of vanity and jealousy, where we promote one another’s interests, not our own, and where we are not suspicious of the motives of those who are seeking to serve God faithfully.
- Become The Servant of All
In the culture of the disciples a child had no status, no possessions or influence, no value other than their own self. Thus to welcome a child in Jesus’ name represents pure service to others for their own sake. Jesus says when we serve others for their own sake, we welcome Jesus and his Father, in other words we walk in fellowship with God and share in his life. This is because service is the very nature of love, and thus of God himself, who created us and saved us for our own sake.
We see from this that our vocation, no matter what God calls us to, is always for the sake of others. We also see that individually and as a church we should be looking to serve those people and in places which clearly give us the opportunity to serve most unselfishly. This is particularly true of the way we serve children in our families. When a married couple are open to the possibility of having more children they are implicitly obeying Christ’s command. In giving their lives to serve their children, parents are quite literally obeying the Lord’s command and are blessed accordingly. The unselfish service required of parents seems unrewarding at times, yet the life that results from that service is one that will bless you, God and others in this life and eternally.