Well, it's back to my school responsibilities today which means back to a regular disciplined schedule. It also means that we are picking up where we left off in Matthew, chapter 20. I am positive we will also be hearing quite a lot from the Psalms this year.
Among the adolescents with whom I work there seems to be a problem with ambition. Many of them like to talk the big talk about dreams and desires but it seldom translates into any form of action. There are a few bright spots but most of them seem to be lost in a malaise, as if they cannot focus on anything of any interest except for entertainment. This is not true of most adolescents but it is of many of those with whom I work. I often pray that they would discover something of interest, something that would spark a bit of ambition in them. But ambition is not good in all things, especially in the Body of Christ.
We read of an incident where the mother of James and John came to Jesus in the hopes of securing a better position for her sons in the coming Kingdom. Talk about missing the point on several levels. She was probably one of many women who traveled with Jesus, looking after much of the cooking, laundry and financial needs of the disciples. In today's terms we would refer to them as the people with the gift of Helps. They would have heard much of the teaching, seen many of the miracles, watched much of the opposition. Yet, just like the disciples, the women were not really hearing. They had it fixed in their minds what was going to happen. Jesus was going to usher in a new era for Israel as he took the throne and this mom, on her own or prompted by her boys, wanted the best positions for her sons.
It is not unlike today when we miss the point on so many levels when it comes to the Body of Christ. Too many elders and pastors see it like a company, a business, where we start off small and we grow it larger; or where we start off on a lower rung and work our way up as far as we can. Talk about society influencing our perspective. We see far too much ambition in the Church, from pastors who want to become apostles (call it what you want) to church members who want a position on the church board. We are even ordaining pastors who have never received the anointing from God. They possess good management skills and have a good tolerance of people so we put them through some Biblical training and say there you go. But let's not just pick on the Church.
We also find a lot of inappropriate ambition in the work place. More people than ever are graduating from colleges and universities. Many have great ambition, wanting good positions in the companies they are hired in. They have equal expectation of good salaries. The problem is that there are not enough jobs for all these people and the companies that do hire them have no plans on quick promotions. Blindsided ambition leads to dissatisfaction which leads to disillusionment. Ambition in the workplace needs to be tempered with patience and hard work. Whereas, ambition in the Church should never be about position and should always be about service.
When the other disciples found out about what James and John had tried to do they became angry with indignation. Their anger was not a result of James and John's lack of understanding but instead that they had tried to get ahead of the rest of the disciples. Jesus did not yell at them, which I would have been tempted to do, but instead used the opportunity to teach them:
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 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 20:25-28)
Leadership in the Body of Christ is never about authority as the world understands authority. Authority comes by way of the Spirit, it is part of the anointing, however, the attitude is all ours to deal with. The rule of all leadership is that it is all about service. I think a few of us need to be reminded of this, not just pastors but the entire Body of Christ. Service is the giving of our lives to others. Service is done through teaching biblical truths to washing toilets. It happens when we cook a meal for a sick neighbour, offer help to someone who hates us, look after a couples' children so they could have a date.
This is a vital point in our understanding of how we live as Christians because Jesus gave himself as an example: "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." We need to stop demanding respect as leaders and start earning it. We need to stop pushing our way ahead of everyone else just because we are an elder, instead we should be the ones with the tea towel over our arm serving the people of the church. We should not be expecting the world to respect us, to bow down to us but instead we should be serving the world, compelled by the great love and compassion of Jesus Christ.
We need humility not ambition to propel the gospel of Jesus Christ forward into this world. Read Philippians 2 to grasp a greater understanding of this truth and of the example that Jesus set for us. It is not about rights and privileges, ambition and position. It is about a genuine love for a people who are lost, a humble heart willing to suffer with the filthiest creatures, a sincere service of love which transcends any race and creed. If we can re-capture this attitude we will find that the Spirit is able to open many more doors and hearts than we had imagined possible. Look to Jesus and the example he has set for us all.