I had been looking forward to last Saturday for quite some time. My best friends from college have both moved within driving distance so I can now get in my car and love on them and their children within a few short hours. I was looking forward to squeezing the waist of one of my best friends who I had not seen in almost two years and holding her 10 month old baby girl in my arms for the first time and telling her how much I love her. I was looking forward to spending quality time laughing with my godparents and eating great food. I was looking forward to the view of the river and the noise of children and connecting with old friends and mentors from college. I was looking forward to the vision planning meeting we scheduled for that morning with a group of loved ones and colleagues. Yes, it was going to be a great day!
READ: Joshua Chapters 3-4
In Chapters 3 and 4, we see the fulfillment of a promise that God made to Moses, as an extension of his covenant with Abraham. For forty years, the Israelites suffered tremendous hardships which caused them to wander the wilderness where several generations died. In spite of this, God continued to care and provide for them. After Moses’ death, God raised up a leader in Joshua. It was Joshua who would take the surviving Israelites into the land that God had promised. God instructed Joshua to build a monument of twelve stones to forever remind the people and their children of the day that God cut off the flow of the Jordan River, so they could cross into the land that God had promised them forty years ago.
Scripture Reference: Matthew 23: 1-12
Today, my pastor preached on the topic, “How to WIN Respect.” He highlighted the importance of speaking truthfully, serving happily, sharing generously, and succeeding humbly. Not surprisingly, most of the scripture references came from the Book of Proverbs, which anchors its foundation in great, Godly wisdom.
While taking another look at the scriptures, I reflected on the topic of succeeding humbly. In American culture, the emphasis on succeeding is paramount. Earlier this week, I reviewed the criteria for “Forbes Celebrity 100.” Some of the evaluations included the amount of money the celebrity made this year, the celebrity’s popularity (determined by Google internet searches, Twitter followers, among other data points), the number of times the celebrity graced a magazine cover, etc. Let’s face it; successful people are rich, powerful, and highly respected, right?
Of course, Oprah topped the list. She is one of only five people to be included on the list every year for the past decade. That short list also included: Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, David Letter, and one that I can’t seem to recall at the moment. When successful people speak, others listen and that is why these celebrities constantly make the list. People want to know what they are doing, how they are living, what they eat with their friends, where they travel with their lovers, and how they shop. For those who build, not only their professional careers, but also their very lives on being greatest among their peers, maintaining their image alone can be a full-time job. Is living at the top of your game, all there is to this life?
Our greatest example of an image-bearer is a carpenter named, Jesus. Jesus was a teacher to everyday people like you and me. One day in particular, he instructed the crowd on the importance of true success and being a great leader. In the lesson, he stressed the importance of not being a hypocrite (saying one thing and doing another), leading by example (not asking a servant or employee to do something that you either have not done or are not willing to do), checking the motivations for our actions (not doing things for the purpose of being seen or praised by people), and a warning to be careful of who you consider a mentor (the self-proclaimed leaders or teachers among you). Finally, he closes with the most important lesson of all:
“The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23: 11 New International Version
Note (reread the verse) with the following guidance:
– Replace the word exalts with the word elevates.
– Consider the word humbles as “the opposite of pride, the opposite of arrogant, the opposite of seeking a high position so that others will worship you”
Jesus constantly reinforces this lesson. He gave the same teaching to Zebedee’s sons in the Book of Matthew 20:20-28, and to his disciples in the Books of Matthew 18: 1-4 and Luke 22: 24-27.
Take Away: From God’s prospective, the greatest among us are those that humbly serve others.
What does it truly mean to have the heart of a servant?