Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 5; 145, Isaiah 57:14-21, Galatians 6:11-18, Mark 9:30-41
If you’ve been on a job interview in the last fifteen years or so, there’s a good chance you’ve been asked: “Where do you see yourself five years from now?” Potential employers ask this question hoping to determine how well your goals and motivation fit the position. Imagine applying for the position of vice-president of a Fortune 500 company, and answering: “I’m hoping to be in an entry-level position in the mail room by then.”
That would be a pretty crazy answer – unless you were interviewing for the position of disciple. Jesus had some unorthodox recruiting techniques (“Hey, Peter and Andrew! Quit your jobs and follow me!”) so it’s no surprise his career advice was unconventional as well. When the disciples argued about which of them was the greatest, Jesus told them: “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” When following Jesus, success means service.
This doesn’t mean we should suppress or hide our talents and contributions, or that we can’t be leaders. To the contrary, we should fully use all the gifts at our disposal to the glory of God. We can even apply for that CEO position, as long as in all things we are serving as Christ commanded. No matter how successful the world tells us we might be, God’s criteria for success include how welcoming we are to children or whether we give a thirsty person a cup of water. We can serve from a penthouse or a cardboard box, but we must serve.
Servant leadership costs us. Sometimes that cost is social standing and higher earning; other times it may be our safety. Paul bore the marks of servant leadership on his body in the form of scars from beatings he received for spreading the gospel. We don’t aspire to these hardships or offer them as proof of our superior humility, but if necessary we modestly accept them. They prepare us for a career of Christ-like leadership. If someone asks us where we want to be in five years, are we ready to say “last of all?”
Comfort: Serving in the spirit of the Gospel is pleasing to the Lord.
Challenge: Be sure to temper your ambition with your humility.
Prayer: Creator God, I will use the gifts you have entrusted to me to serve your people. Amen.
Discussion: What’s the difference between being humble and demeaning yourself?
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