Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
MATTHEW 23:1-12 NKJV
We are continuing our study of this passage to look at the heart of a true leader.
Notice from this passage that it’s okay to want to be the greatest! Jesus doesn’t rebuke this ambition; He simply makes us qualify for it.
Remember that greatness is part of THE BLESSING OF ABRAHAM (see Genesis 12:2).
To be great, be a servant. Servant leadership is the key to greatness.
Jesus here teaches a spiritual law – to be exalted, humble yourself. Or we could say it like this: to soar high, go low.
This is the law of inverse proportion.
The smaller you make yourself in your own eyes, the bigger you appear in God’s.
Being exalted becomes very simple – just humble yourself. Note that if you exalt yourself, you will be humbled. A haughty spirit comes before a fall.
Do not exalt yourself in the presence of the king,
And do not stand in the place of the great;
For it is better that he say to you,
“Come up here,”
Than that you should be put lower in the presence of the prince,
Whom your eyes have seen.
PROVERBS 25:6,7 NKJV
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.”
And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?”
They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.”
But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”
They said to Him, “We are able.”
So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.”
And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John. But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
MARK 10:32-45 NKJV
The desire to lead and to be great is a valid human feeling. Jesus doesn’t rebuke it but simply lays down qualifications. He asks James and John if they are prepared and able to follow His footsteps. To be a leader, you have to be prepared to do what leaders do.
Jesus reminds these two that promotion is of the Lord – to sit at Jesus’ right and left hand is for God to decide. However, notice that positions of exaltation and leadership are reserved for those who are prepared and qualified. There are two aspects to this. Firstly, you have to be in the will of God for your life. Secondly, you need to position yourself by preparing your heart. This includes having the right attitude – that of a servant, not a master.
Jesus says that in the world, rulers lord it over people, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Then He says: “It shall not be so among you.”
Leadership in the Kingdom is not about grasping power or seeking to lord it over others. Kingdom leaders look where they can serve, not where they can dominate.
He says, if you want to be first, be the slave of all. He didn’t say it was wrong to desire to be first; He says you can obtain this by qualifying through serving others.
Proverbs 22:4 tells us that riches, honour and life come by humility and the fear of the Lord. Leadership is a position of honour. To qualify to be a leader, you must be humble and walk in the fear of the Lord.