Status, Prominence, and the Stewardship of Service

It’s time to better align our thoughts and attitudes and behaviours to Jesus’ example and teaching: If we desire to be great, we need to serve. Often, though, we focus on status and prominence over servanthood, missing the model of leadership Jesus showed us…

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.

21 “What is it you want?” he asked.

She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”

22 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”

“We can,” they answered.

23 Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”

24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Matthew 20:20-27

As Jesus has been talking to his followers, we see that he has been confronting several improper perspectives of the world. Our superiority complexes, worldliness, idolatry, and entitlement chip away at our discipleship. Today he keeps going with an interaction which, perhaps, combines all of these faults into one big object lesson.

James and John, who (along with Peter) are in the inner circle of Jesus, come to Jesus with their Mom. No joke.

There was an unwritten rule when my kids played hockey. Mom never went onto the ice. No matter what happened to your son, Mom stayed off the ice, because a player could never live down his Mom coming to his aid when he was hurt. Mama’s boys. That’s what it would look like. James and John had their Mom come with them to ask for the place of prominence. The other disciples would have a field day with them. Except they were more upset about the actual request…

The request put the two ahead of the ten. The request elevated them to the status of right and left hand of the King of Kings.

Their peers were likewise focused on these things. They didn’t get it any better than the two. Has anyone ever apologized for something and you thought to yourself, “Are you sorry you did it or sorry you got caught?” This is one of those times. The ten aren’t thinking the request was out of line. They are thinking that they are more worthy than James and John. And they are probably mad that the two beat them to the question…

Their request falls short of understanding the cost and the sacrifice Jesus will make for all humanity. Their request focuses on status and prominence over servanthood, which means it also falls short of understanding his teaching. Have you been listening to me?!?!?

If we desire to be great, we need to serve. Leadership is not something we are to lord over overs. Leadership is a stewardship of service and self-sacrifice.

It’s time to better align our thoughts and attitudes and behaviours to Jesus’ example. And Mom’s and Dad’s, this goes for us as well. Our kids should be learning this from us. And that can’t happen when we are demanding from coaches and teachers and principals and whomever else that our child should be first or chosen or the recipient of special treatment.

Serve. In humility.

Marc Kinna


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