Do You Want to Be Great and Have Financial Greatness?
This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke. In Luke 22:24-30, Jesus responded to the dispute that some of the apostles were having. They were arguing about who would be the greatest?
A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
“I am the greatest,” proclaimed boxer Mohammed Ali, sports fans who lived through the 1970’s can remember. That was nothing new, the apostles did one better, arguing before the king of world Jesus, that one of them would be the greatest in heaven and earth. Society loves to tout and hold up those who are the greatest athletes. People have been holding up King James signs in Cleveland now that LaBron has returned there to play basketball. I live in Columbus Ohio and we hear all of the time about the greatest golfer of all time Jack Nicklaus, and the greatest university being The Ohio State University. It always amuses me to read magazine headlines checking out at the grocery store, touting the sexiest man or woman alive. Our society loves to lift up those who are most popular in sports, movies, books and politics.
Who wants to be seen as a failure, a nobody, unpopular, financially unsuccessful and having a lowly job? If you were to do a little research, some of the biggest fears people have are not spiders and heights. Some individuals fear loneliness, social embarrassment, failure, rejection and inadequacy. People combat these fears all sorts of ways, sometimes striving for greatness, popularity, beauty, acceptance, and wealth. Often we spend beyond our means, and borrow just to look great on the outside.
Jesus said greatness means great service. The apostles had Jesus and eternal salvation, but that wasn’t enough, they wanted greatness too. The 12 apostles of Jesus knew they were on the verge of greatness; I’d bet they could sense that one day they’d probably be well-known and influential. Yet, in the verses above, Jesus said greatness comes from being lowly like servants and like young people who haven’t yet risen in position.
Jesus didn’t arrive on the scene 2,000 years ago to be great in his time. He didn’t come to be glorified in his earthly life. Jesus is the greatest of all time, the most famous man to ever walk the planet. His messages have been written down, copied and read more than any other words in the civilization of mankind. We set time according to Jesus. All of history hinges on his birth, life and death (e.g., B.C. & A.D.), yet Jesus was a monetarily poor itinerant teacher, and another Roman trouble making religious fanatic.
On one hand, he taught and blessed many people. He healed and loved thousands. But on the other hand, he was spit upon, beaten, ridiculed, cursed, tortured, and slowly murdered in public, hanging naked on a cross. Jesus was financially poor, lonely through suffering (Matthew 26:40), misunderstood, falsely judged, physically embarrassed (Matthew 27:35), not approved by others and falsely condemned (Matthew 27:11-26); all of the things people fear.
Jesus came to serve, not to be held up as great in that day; he came to serve us, through his life and his death. He wants us not to strive for our greatness, but to serve others. It’s okay to accumulate wealth and strive for success in any line of work that we are in. But that will not give us peace in our hearts and joy in our lives, nor greatness where it really matters.
“I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy.” wrote Khalil Gibran many years ago. Service may not make us great in this age, but it matters to God, and matters for eternity.
What does this matter to personal finances and stewardship? That is for you answer. Look at your spending, your lifestyle, the things that make you feel good. Look within, search your heart; where does your motivation come from, what makes you click? Is it Jesus, is it service? Is it being a good steward, managing time, talents and treasures for God? Is it living with full integrity, no matter if no one is watching. Is it in service to the poor, the immigrant (Leviticus 19:33-34) , the disabled, the person struggling in life?
Do you sometimes wonder about your connection to God? Isaiah 58:10-11 is interesting:
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
This verse seems to connect how we spend ourselves, and the strength of our connection to God. It causes me to self-examine the extent I’ve given Jesus lordship of my life; how well do I hear his leading, have faith in his providing what I really need, and feel the infilling of his joyful delight.
*This Monday blog post is a chronological walk through of the four gospels, examining any verse that involves money and stewardship. This is the sixty-second post in this series.