A famous organist had been invited by an opera house to give a recital on its recently restored antique hand-pump organ. A teenaged boy was hired to pump the organ during the recital to give it the required supply of air. The opera house was packed, and the crowd was appreciate of each piece performed. Between numbers, the kid peeked around the corner of the organ and whispered, "We're doing pretty good, aren't we?" The organ diva shot back, "What do you mean 'we'?" A few minutes later, in the middle of a beautiful ascending refrain, the organ suddenly stopped playing. Desperately, the musician tried pulling all the stops, but nothing worked. The kid, sticking his head around the organ again with a huge grin on his face, said, "Now do you know what I mean by 'we'?"
It's easy for us to get caught up the "Myth of Personal Greatness".
In Luke 22:22-30, we read about how the disciples of Jesus were pointing fingers at each other trying to figure out which one of them were going to betray Jesus. Self-defense gave way to self-promotion and an argument about which one of them was the greatest.
Jesus had a lot to say about personal greatness. He understands how easy it is for us to get caught up in our sense of self, and he said this to quiet their argument: "Powerful people lord their greatness over others, and those who exercise authority over them say they are just taking care of the folks. But you are not to be like that. The greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules should be like a servant. Who's really greater?"
T.S. Eliot (American-born essayist) said this: "Most of the trouble in the world is caused by people wanting to be important." The Way of Jesus is different. Here's how:
1] Jesus invites us to be faithful, not successful. He said, "Be faithful as long as you live, and I will give you the crown of life." Jesus wants our faithfulness to him and to the Word he has given us. That faithfulness also extends to our other relationships. Why can't greatness be defined as loving God and each other faithfully? Why can't greatness be defined by being a loving, attentive, faithful parent or spouse? Why can't a 'great church' be known for its faithfulness to scripture and each other? There isn't much mentioned in scripture about being successful; there is a great deal written about being faithful!
2] Jesus asks us to be servants, not leaders. It might surprise you to know the word 'leader' is generally avoided by Jesus. In fact, Jesus carefully avoids the models of leadership and authority found in the surrounding society. New Testament leadership is based on a person's commitment to Christ, their character, and their submission -- not by personal greatness. Leadership in the church must always be understood in terms of service, not power.
I'm glad Jesus is a voice that offers and alternative to the pursuit of personal greatness. He knows our worth comes from God and our faithfulness to him, not from how society measures greatness, success, and self-worth. Jesus puts the definitive value on humanity.