What Does True Greatness Look Like?

February 23, 2017

Follow certain tweets, read certain posts, and observe certain individuals and you will discover the obsession, the fascination, with greatness. “Look at me, see me, follow me, hear me, like me, applaud me”…such terms, if not careful, can transition into, or at least be interpreted as “worship me.” The unhealthy, and never-ending hunger for approval is one of the hallmarks of our generation. This is, however, not a new pursuit of religious ideologues.  Even the closest companions of Christ wrestled with the idea of their own enormity, their own presence.  It was a dispute among the disciples. The gospel writer said it like this, “Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest” (Luke 9:46).

Who is the Greatest?

The “reasoning” process among the disciples was a self-absorbed, narcissistic competition that gave no thought of the glory of Christ. For had Christ been factored into their reasoning (their thoughts, their contemplation), there would have been no discussion or debate to begin with: For Christ is the greatest, the most magnanimous of all-time. Paul said that Christ was, “Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:21-23).

These disciples “handled the Word of life” up close and personal and yet, still faced the temptation of self-glory. Christ, on the other hand sought no glory of His own, save that of the Father’s. Instead, Christ bowed divine knees and made this radical statement to those glory-hungry disciples, ““I am among you as he that serveth” (Luke 22:27).

Walking through the Dust

I say “radical” because the concept of being a servant doesn’t seemingly match the glorious nature of Christ’s person.  Christ is King, Master, Messiah, God incarnate; yet, He sought to be servant among sinners.  The word “serveth” is diakoneo in the Greek, which comes from diakonos.  This word is translated as minister, ministering, service, servant, and even deacon*. The word literally means, “kicking up dust, or walking through the dust.”  The genesis of the word stems from the camel trade days. Whenever a master would purchase a camel, or any other type of domestic beast, the servant would hoist his master onto the beast and literally “walk through the dust” as he led the beast to the desired location.

The servant was abased so the master could be exalted. The servant was willing to get dirty so that the master could stay clean. The servant was willing to, well, serve, so that the master could be served. When Christ said, “I am among you as he that serveth” He was literally saying, I am voluntarily taking the lowest position, I am willing to be inconvenience and walk through the dust for each of you. This is greatness, at least the kind that is recognized by God.

Are You Walking or Riding?

We all know the paradoxical extents of kingdom greatness: die, be last, serve others, walk through the dust.  Yet, we see little of it in life and ministry these days.  Instead, we lift up our self-entitled ministries; we wave our audacious banners in the air, we ride into the arena with grand and pompous style waiting to be applauded and loved by the masses.  I say “ride” because we are not willing to “walk through the dust.”  No one, at the core, really wants to be last. No one wants to die. No one wants to be abased. And that is why few men will ever be truly described as “great.”

Those who have an obsession with greatness are like the disciples of old – they have a hard time seeing true greatness from their vantage point because they have been lifted high on the beast; they rarely notice the servants that walk through the dust beneath them.

The truly great men and women who have influenced my life have never received accolades or awards in the circles of greatness; and that is what makes them great. They help others reach their potential. They set others on the beast. They wash feet. They clean toilets. They whisper prayers. They bow not in the company of applause, but rather in the company of the afflicted. They serve, they help, they love, they nurture, they care. They do all of these things in the unknown, secret places of life. They do all of this with the spirit of Christ, not looking for their own glory.  Their hands are calloused, their hearts are tender, their minds are lowly, their desires are pure, and their feet are dusty.

This is greatness.

This is Christianity.



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