My Pride Dislikes Your Pride
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matthew 20:23c “Instead, it belongs to those for whom it has been prepared
by My Father.”
God the Father is not an arbitrary King. YHWH rewards righteousness, not ambition. Holiness, not one-upmanship, matters most. The best rewards Heaven has to offer will be given to those who pursued the proper rewards on Earth.
Places of honor are available for us in Heaven if we are willing to pay the cost to win them. Wishing without working won’t work. Our works prove we truly have been saved by grace through faith. Grace and works operate in tandem.
This last statement unravels what many find to be a perplexing Scriptural enigma. Many wonder how we reconcile Bible verses that teach salvation by grace with the verses that speak of a judgment by works. Both matter. Our everlasting destiny depends on our response to grace. Our condition within eternity is based on a judgment by works. It is possible to be saved “like an escape through fire” (1 Cor 3:15). It is also possible to have an entrance “richly supplied” to us (2 Peter 1:11).
The reward of being near Jesus will make all energy expended in the effort here worthwhile. One reason Heaven will be so perfect to us is, God who donned human flesh still wears it. His continuing to be like us will help us humans feel more at home there. The best part of Heaven is to be near this One most like us.
Heaven is a literal place. The heaven of Heaven is a condition, a relationship. It is noble to aspire to want to be as close to Jesus as is possible in Heaven. The best way to have this happen is to strive to be near Him on Earth.
Self-questioning can help us here. Do our thoughts of Heaven center around material things? If so, what does this tell us about what we really value here? Often ask, does Heaven’s holiness appeal to us as much as Heaven’s happiness?
Matt. 20:24 (Holman) When the 10 [disciples] heard this, they became
indignant with the two brothers.
Uh oh. All the disciples shared the same selfish ambition. All 12 wanted supreme seats of honor and power. Jesus had barely finished talking about the cross when all the Twelve started this selfish fussing. None of them understood.
When anyone tries to push ahead of us, or outdo us, we do not handle it well. My ambition does not admire your ambition. My pride dislikes your pride. My selfishness thinks your selfishness is uglier than mine.
If we don’t like what we’re seeing in others, let’s not like it in ourselves. This is hard to do. Self can be totally blind to itself. It is our own natural deity, a god so strong that sometimes no sacrifice is too precious for its shrine (Thomas).
Matt. 20:25a But Jesus called them over. . .
Choosing to defuse, rather than enflame, the situation, Jesus reacted gently. No scolding, no yelling, no calling them knuckleheads, no putting them in time out. He handled them straightforwardly, yet also tenderly. Blaming no one, Jesus called the Twelve to come close to Him. He wanted to lift them to a higher level.
Jesus’ patience with us is marvelous. He not only preached, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (MT 5:9). He practiced it. We need to go and do likewise.
Matt. 20:25b . . .and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles
dominate them, and the men of high position exercise
power over them.”
The secular world’s normal operating procedure is to dominate, to push others down while pushing yourself up. Many who advance do so by stepping on rather than stepping up. The Economist magazine recently said a primary reason for the world’s poverty is graft among national leaders who suppress their people.
George Washington did the opposite, thus explaining why he is our number one, most loved, USA hero. The Continental Army could have been his. Soldiers who fought to cast off King George III could have easily made Washington into King George I. Fortunately for us, Washington chose a different path to greatness.
We believers are to minister, not master; give, not govern (Thomas). Even leaders are to serve. Peter (I P 5:3) said Pastors are not to “lord” over their people. The same verb is translated “dominate” in our text. If I as a Pastor am forbidden to lord it over others in my Bible-honored occupation, then neither should you do it.
Hear me, leaders in corporate America. Your requirement to serve and love others applies to the employees who work for you. However high on the totem pole you are, do not lord it over people. Your assignment is to serve them.
You bosses and supervisors have in your hands the awful power to make a worker and his family miserable due to the stress you cause him or her in the workplace. Don’t go there. Your employees’ homes are more important than the job they do for you. Don’t let the less important role spoil the more important role.
Matt. 20:26-27 “It must not be like that among you. On the contrary,
whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,
and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave.”
The word translated “servant” is diakonos, our word for deacon. The term referred to people who did manual labor, like cleaning houses, working in a field, or serving tables. It described available hired helpers needing little training or skill.
Slaves were much lower than servants. Servants controlled their own lives after work hours, but slaves were owned entirely, every day, minute, and breath.
Jesus would have been hard pressed to find any other two terms to better describe His desire for us to seek the lowest positions. To be great, we must be humble. To stand the highest we must kneel the lowest. Inferiority is superiority.
This type of greatness is okay for us to pursue because it is humble and selfless, not proud and selfish. It is also desirable because it is within the reach of everyone. Kingdom greatness has never been intended for an elite class only.
Jesus turned the world’s concept of greatness upside down. Because of Him, zenith became nadir, first became last, high became low, and apex became bottom.
His new, inverted hierarchy is well illustrated by a pyramid and its perfect reflection in water. The top pyramid is the world’s way; the objective is to do whatever is necessary to be the one who reaches the top. The reflected pyramid is the Jesus way; the goal is to be the one striving to be under the most people.
Recently I have practiced on Ruth. I owe her for 41 years of her living out in minute detail what Jesus taught us. (By the way, I’ve not done well. Let the record show, it’s hard to out-give a person who, like Ruth, has the spiritual gift of giving.)
The Twelve wanted top positions in a political kingdom. No such positions exist in Christ’s Kingdom. Jesus flipped the measuring stick upside down. Money, talents, successes, and skill have value only to the extent they honor God by undergirding (way down low) others. Someone aptly said we who believe John 3:16 should practice I John 3:16, “This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers.”
Beware the Diotrephes syndrome. Diotrephes was the man of whom John the Beloved wrote, he “loves to have first place among them” (3 John 9). Imitate Epaphroditus, whom Paul called “a minister to my need” (Philippians 2:25).
Let every encounter every day be humble. It is no “glory to search out one’s own glory” (Proverbs 25:27b NASB). “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth – a stranger, and not your own lips” (Proverbs 27:2).
To serve and to slave is to expend energy in unselfish kindness. Daily ask “How many times did I consciously do something today I at first did not prefer to do?” In every person’s presence think, “How can I give more to them in this encounter than I receive from them?” Always try to give more than you receive.
Let every social interaction be a self-giving one. Overlook flaws, encourage others, relieve them of some burden, ask about something that matters in their lives, be friendly to them. Offer to pray for them; then do it and tell them you did.