“The greatest among you shall be your servant.”
This short verse comes from a section of Matthew’s gospel known as the Seven Woes to the Scribes and Pharisees. It is more or less a full chapter of Jesus rebuking the hypocrisy and wickedness of the religious leaders of the time. Sadly, much of it can still be applied to our own lives. This verse is no exception.
Jesus is making a statement about humility and the Kingdom of God. In the Kingdom of God, the first will be last and the last will be first. The humble will be lifted up and the proud will be humbled.
Jesus says this because it is human to want to be greatest – to be the most popular, most attractive, most wealthy, the smartest, the strongest, etc. We want to be great. Christ reminds us that worldly greatness means nothing – in fact, it’s a detriment. Those who seek their glory on earth will not find it in heaven. Those who seek attention from others by placing themselves on a pedestal will be laid low. Those who crave recognition and praise and honor on earth will find that when this life is over, they chose their reward already, and it was by far the poorer choice.
In the kingdom of heaven, the one who serves will become great. In the kingdom of heaven, the one who thinks of themselves least will be made the most. In the kingdom of heaven, the greatest is the one who is overlooked, passes on credit, works for the glory of God and not for their own.
So the next time you want to be first or best or greatest, remember these words of Jesus. Whoever serves on earth will be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever is greatest here will be least. Choose wisely.
I pray that you help me to read the words of Jesus against the Pharisees and Scribes seriously and with sober self-reflection. Help me to see the hypocrisy, pride, and vanity in my own life and help me to repent and turn to you. Forgive me, and help me to serve as you yourself served. Humble me, and make me great in your kingdom.
In Jesus’ Name,