[Jesus] sat down and called the twelve disciples over to him. Then he said, “Anyone who wants to be the first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”
It’s hard to glamorize the disciples of Jesus when you pay attention to the Scriptures. Today’s passage is a response to their ongoing argument about who was the greatest among them. When Jesus asked them about it, they kept quiet out of embarrassment. His response offers the antidote for pride and ambition and a model for true leadership.
A few years ago, when Mother Teresa visited Phoenix, Arizona, to speak at the opening of a home for the destitute, KTAR, the largest radio station in town, interviewed her. During a commercial break the announcer asked Mother Teresa whether there was anything he could do for her. He expected her to request a donation or ask for media help to raise money for the new facility.
Instead, she looked him in the eye and said, “Yes, there is. Find someone nobody else loves and love them.”
I’ve never heard the rest of the story. I don’t know if the challenge of that diminutive nun from Calcutta caused that disc jockey to seek our someone to love unconditionally or not. But it is a challenge that’s hard to ignore.
Giving a gift of money is never as costly as giving of our lives. The gift of money is immediate. But giving our lives is ongoing.
The gift of money represents that past portion of our lives that we have already invested in our work. The gift of service represents a desire to invest more of our future in that which has eternal significance. Once money leaves our hands, so often the memory of it leaves us as well. But when we give our hearts, the memories are with us forever.
While money is a necessary (and always appreciated!) ingredient for any kingdom endeavor, the most acute need is always for leaders and servants. Where are those who will invest themselves in the lives of others, nurturing, encouraging, and developing people into mature disciples? Most of us, if offered a choice between giving some extra money to our church or working in the church’s preschool department, would dig deep into our pockets!
But it is precisely that sacrificial quality of service that makes it so valuable. Whether it is teaching children in Sunday school or being part of the work crew that puts a new roof on the crisis pregnancy center, serving is the key to keeping our priority and focus.
What are some of the unique experiences God has used to bring growth in my life? How can serving others redeem even difficult experiences?
God, please bring to mind people who would benefit from spending time with me. How could I offer them encouragement, hope, and opportunities to grow? Grant me the courage to contact them—today.
“The man who keeps busy helping the man below him won’t have time to envy the man above him.”
—Henrietta Mears, twentieth-century Christian educator