Mark 9:33–37 (ESV): 33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”
It is the natural disposition of all people to think more highly of themselves then we should. The root sin that led to the fall was pride—believing the lie that somehow God had short-changed them. Looking back with twenty-twenty, we now see the absurdity of their complaint as they enjoyed perfect communion with God in paradise. But that same principle of pride still raises its ugly head in our hearts when we so easily consider ourselves greater than others. What causes someone to commit unspeakable crimes against another? How could a man beat a women, or exploit and take advantage of her? What makes a women be caddy, and go around slandering other women, murdering their reputation? How can a business owner cheat his customers by offering a product that is not quite as advertised? How can a politician use his power, to embezzle money from an already poor community? What makes a pastor spiritually abuse his congregation? At root all of these sins are just the various manifestations of pride—one person thinking they are greater than another. But the logic of the Kingdom of God operates much differently. The world may laud and encourage pride, championing the person who boasts to be the greatest. But Jesus calls us to be “last of all and servant of all.” Not popular words in a culture which prizes the pursuit of greatness. Our fundamental attitude must be different, for our pursuit of actual greatness looks like a loss to the world. But in truth when you see it in action it is a truly beautiful picture of the gospel. True greatness is a husband that lays down his life in service of his wife and children. But whose wife and children will scarcely allow his sacrifice to be outdone by their willing submission to him. It looks like a people who are all trying to “one-up” each other in service and care towards the other. It looks like a business that goes out of its way to produce a product that doesn’t sacrifice quality for profit. It looks like a church bending over backward to meet the needs of each other and their community. We have as our example Jesus. Paul in Philippians says,
“Philippians 2:5–8 (ESV): 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
The cross was the greatest instance of humble service, where the greatest became least, and by his doing secured for all time eternal life for all who believe. It wasn’t pride that won the day, but humility.
Father, humility is a hard lesson for us to learn, and an even harder prayer for us to pray. But Lord, we would have pride banished from our midst. Help us to think more highly of others than ourselves. Give us all hearts that strive to outdo one another in service to each other. Help us to model in our families, churches, businesses, and communities the subversive logic of the gospel—that the least among us is greatest. Thank you for your Son who not only showed us the path of true humility but purchased our salvation, and enables us everyday to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness. We ask for these things in his name, Amen.