This is the time of year when we celebrate those who have climbed the ladder of success. It’s award season in Hollywood, which means that we will have many opportunities to recognize those who have risen from unknown actor, to feature film star, to award nominee, to award winner. We will celebrate those who have climbed similar ladders in the music industry as well. On the football field, we will celebrate those who have risen from draftee, to starter, to playoff participant, to NFL champion.
It seems that everywhere we look, people are trying to get ahead, climb higher, achieve more. A similar thing happened with two of Jesus’ disciples in the New Testament. James and John were on the fast track to success. They had been promoted from fishermen, to “fishers of men,” to disciples, to members of Jesus’ inner circle of 3. Still, they wanted more. One day, when they believed that Jesus was heading to Jerusalem to become king, they came to him with a special request. They said, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory” (Mark 10:37).
These two men demonstrated the desire for upward mobility that’s so ingrained in human nature. They believed that greatness could be found at the top of the ladder. Jesus had a different perspective. He used this as a teachable moment. He pulled all of his disciples together and said, “Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.” (Mark 10:43-44)
Jesus championed the way of “downward mobility.” He said that the great ones are those who serve; but he didn’t just say these things, he lived them. He demonstrated greatness by serving the broken, washing the feet of the unworthy, and dying for the undeserving. It may seem counterintuitive, but according to Jesus, greatness is found at the bottom.
As we start a new Christian community it would be easy for us to use all of the usual metrics for greatness, but we must resist that temptation. I like what Jen Hatmaker says in her book Interrupted:
“I don’t want to be known for a great band. I don’t want to be admired for a great campus. I don’t want to be recognized for a great marketing campaign. I don’t want to be praised for great programming…I want the church to be great because we fed hungry mommas and their babies. I’d like to be great because we battled poverty with not just our money but our hands and hearts. I desire the greatness that comes from seeking not only mercy but justice for those caught in a system with trapdoors.”
May we seek downward mobility in our ministry together, for that is where greatness is found.