The brothers James and John desired greatness, when they asked for the positions of prominence on the right and left of Jesus in his Kingdom. Jesus revealed that even though they would suffer for their following Jesus, these positions were not for Jesus to give, but were reserved for those who’ve been prepared for them. Jesus went on to explain that there is a path to greatness in his Kingdom that does not resemble greatness in the world. Those who are great in the world seek for others to recognize their authority; they want to have authority over others. Conversely those who are great in God’s Kingdom seek out no authority over others; they serve others and in this way may receive gratitude and honor from those they serve. Later Jesus would remind his disciples that there is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends. Jesus said those words just prior to his laying down his life for a world that largely ignores him.
If you seek greatness and honor you may achieve it in the world. People may give you recognition, honor and positions of authority because of your abilities and hard work. You may be given the authority to make decisions and direct those who are under your authority. You may be honored with invitations to speak at gatherings large or small, along with an ever increasing income. If you seek that type of greatness, that the world defines as great, true greatness in Jesus’ Kingdom will elude you. Greatness in the Kingdom of God doesn’t ask what others can do for you, rather it asks how you can serve others. The world does not equate serving others as great; it equates being on the top of an organizational chart as being great, commanding a greater salary as being great and being recognized as being great. The willingness to serve without recognition, without honor and without authority is often overlooked by the world, by those who have James’ and John’s perspective of greatness. It is quite possible that those who are great in God’s Kingdom will be invisible to the world. Having said that, there may be some who truly serve others with no desire to exercise authority and are still recognized. However in that moment of recognition those servants must also guard their hearts so that the recognition received doesn’t shift their servant heart to one that seeks more recognition.