Let Me Be Great

Jesus took the request of two disciples and made it a teachable moment for all (Matt. 20:20-24). He contrasts the greatness of the Gentiles with a new idea for greatness in his kingdom.

But Jesus called them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions use their authority over them. It must not be this way among you! Instead whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Matthew 20:25-28 NET

In previous decades, anointed voices taught us how to cultivate the heart of a servant. These valuable lessons encouraged humility and service but excluded greatness and authority. Of late, one theme in the lessons I am learning about God (and through Holy Spirit, about myself) is that he cannot be summarily divided into either/or. Much of what exhorts us in righteousness is both/and, meaning we can be both people of service and people of authority. We can know greatness through service.

Of course, we come back to our issue of perspective, which is not a spirit but is definitely a root or core hindrance to our enlightenment. Perspective in some societies and cultures sees greatness as showy, loud, and oppressive to others. We know that all beliefs do not easily transfer, and in the kingdom of God, greatness is nothing like this.

Book cover, The Way of the Warrior by Erwin McManus

In the kingdom of God, greatness is service beyond. It is the willingness to sacrifice in service, to give for the sake of others. Erwin McManus in his book The Way of the Warrior makes some wonderfully inspiring statements about greatness and service.

  • A life of service does not diminish the pursuit of greatness (p. 53).
  • Greatness is not the absence of humility; it is the absence of apathy (p. 53).
  • To the warrior, greatness is not the product of ego but of service (p. 54).
  • The life of the warrior is defined by the pursuit of greatness. This is their greatest act of service. (p. 54)
  • Jesus did not come to diminish the greatness in others; he came to awaken it (p. 58).
  • He didn’t try to diminish their ambition; he tried to redirect their intention (p. 58).
  • Jesus’s words are so powerful and so well known that we often miss the significance of his entire statement. No one had ever called their leaders to serve. (p. 60)
  • Yet this servanthood is not for everyone. It’s actually very specific: it’s a callout to whoever wants to become great. The call to servanthood finds its power only when it is received by those who are on the pursuit of greatness. (p. 60)
  • It is not wrong to aspire to greatness. The warning here is to be careful to never confuse fame with greatness. (p. 60)
  • Fame is what you do for yourself; greatness is what you do for others (p. 60).

In the Southern United States, especially among people of color, there is a phrase used as a joke to describe a hindrance. For example, imagine you have a 4pm appointment and on your way you encounter horrible stand-still traffic. You call your contact and say, “This traffic won’t let me be great.” Whatever won’t let us be great is an obstacle in our way.

The kingdom of God works in reverse. Through challenge, God graces us with an invitation to greatness. God wants to let us be great, but he’s not talking about emphasizing our obstacles. When God calls us or nudges us or inspires us to greatness, he’s inviting us to serve. Selah.

Dr. Shaunta D. Scroggins is the lead contributor at The Bereans’ Commentary.

One Comment on “Let Me Be Great

  1. Thank you for explaining greatness.
    I always enjoy your posts. Please continue to share.
    God’s blessings on you.

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