When my youngest son was about 4 years old, he began doing the most random thing ever. I have no idea why or how it began. All I know is I witnessed it. A lot. Over several years.
Here’s what he’d do…
Arbitrarily he would run into the living room (out of nowhere it seemed), mount the top of the couch or chair or ottoman, raise one fist in the air and declare, “I am king!” Only it was dramatic, and proclamation-like, and more drawn out. Like, “I am kiiiiinnnngggg!!!”
And then that was it. He’d step down off of his “throne” and walk away rather indifferently.
I know. Random, right? Yes…and no…
I tend to think there’s a little part of each one of us that desires to be at the top—to be king or queen, to be the boss, to be in charge, to be recognized, to be praised, to achieve some sort of greatness. Some have this desire in very hidden and subtle ways. Others shout it from the mountain tops. (Or couch tops…whatever!)
If indeed we desire greatness, though, how do we get it? Where do we find it? When does it happen?
William Shakespeare wrote in his play Twelfth Night, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” We could probably give evidence to support all three of those avenues to greatness. We know people who fit each one of those categories.
There’s an interesting verse way back in the Old Testament. When King David was old and in failing health, one of his sons did something similar to mine. No, he didn’t run into the living room and climb to the top of the chair. But in a sense, it was close.
King David was still on the throne, though he was quite aged. We read in 1 Kings 1:5 that—completely out of the blue—“Adonijah…exalted himself saying, ‘I will be king!’ So he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen with fifty men to run before him.”
Apparently, Adonijah was one of those who had a desire for greatness in a not-so-subtle way. It’s interesting…where we think we’d never do anything that gutsy or overt or brash, we frequently make moves to put ourselves at the top of the heap. Why? Again, it’s our inner desire for greatness.
If I asked you what it takes to be great, you might say things like hard work, ability, intellect, money, fame, influence, charisma, the x-factor, etc. But what would Jesus say? Did He even care about stuff like greatness?
Jesus actually taught quite a bit about greatness. Only everything He taught sounded completely upside down. In the beattitudes, for instance, He said weird things like, “Blessed are the meek…” Meek sounds like weak. And weak doesn’t sound anything like greatness. And “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Poor? A far cry from rich, and doesn’t wealth translate to greatness? “Blessed are those who mourn.” You’re kidding! Mourning equals sadness. And how can you be great when you’re sad?
Though these statements appear to be upside down, they’re actually right-side up. A closer look at Jesus’ perspective and teaching on greatness not only support these statements He made at the beginning of Matthew 5, but give us a framework to truly define (or redefine) greatness.
You want to know how we get greatness? Where we find it? When it happens? Here you go:
- Have a servant attitude. Greatness isn’t defined by the number of people who serve you, it’s defined by the number of people you serve. Jesus—as a guy who came to serve, not to be served—said in Matthew 20:26, “…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.”
- Have a humble heart. Life’s not about you. It’s not about being in 1st place, at the top of the heap, being king or queen, in charge, recognized, or praised. In Luke 9:48, Jesus said, “For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”
- Walk in obedience to God. Wow! This one’s not easy. Not even for Jesus. When the cross was imminent, He basically begged for any other way. A plan B…or C…or D perhaps? But at the end of the day, He surrendered His will to that of His Heavenly Father. Obedience was a big deal to Jesus. He said in Matthew 5:19, “…but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
- Love people. The Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13, uniquely said that he could be great in the world’s eyes (or even in the eyes of the “religious”), but if he didn’t have love, he was nothing. Love was probably Jesus’ pinnacle teaching, even though it was taught mostly without using words. For Him, He lived it rather than said it. Along with loving God, He taught in Mark 12:31, “Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”
If you want to be great (…and who doesn’t?), I wouldn’t suggest running to the top of your couch and declaring it. (Unless your kingdom is my living room. If that’s the case it just might work for a hot second.)
No, if I were you, I’d opt for a more Jesus-like approach.
(re)Define your greatness. Friends, when we begin to think, and act, and live like Jesus we are indeed blessed!