The Greatest Among Us


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“The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Matthew 23:11-12

We usually don’t think of the greatest in our midst as being our servants, but this is what Jesus taught:

Culture teaches otherwise…

In this passage, Jesus was teaching the crowd that they should follow the lead of their religious leaders and to do whatever the leaders said, but to never do as their leaders did.  This was because their leaders taught all of the right things, but lived entirely differently.  They loved their lofty positions and all of the perks that came along with them.

Following Jesus is not about perks.

Following Jesus means that we are the humble servants of others to promote God’s purpose.  Following Jesus means that we are willing to sacrifice for His cause; to give our all and even to suffer for His name’s sake.  If we are into self-satisfaction and self-actualization, we are not following Jesus.

Following Jesus means that we get over ourselves.

Following Jesus means that it is all about Him. We like to say that Christmas should be all about Him.  Let’s try celebrating Christmas by behaving like Him, and putting others first!

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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13 Responses to The Greatest Among Us

  1. Little Monk says:

    You’ve grasped by the horns, one of the thorniest teachings Jesus ever laid down. One I find to be among the most “resisted” by churchy folk. Not only does Jesus exalt the underclass here, but He reinforces His Sermon on the Mount teaching that those who parade their righteousness, their religious attainments and superiority before men, and garner the admiration of their communities… have already received their rewards, and have none left from the Father. Tough lesson, that.

    One thing you’ve said here, though… I guess I have a confession to make, so ya’ll can pray for my reform, but you said…

    “If we are into self-satisfaction and self-actualization, we are not following Jesus.”

    Well, I have to admit… I am DEEPLY and TOTALLY into self-satisfaction, and ESPECIALLY self-actualization. I remember as a teen, being asked by peers why I was so into this “Jesus stuff”, and responding, with a bit of a laugh that it was because I’d discovered that I was (and yet am) very selfish. That loving Him, walking with Him, listening to Him, serving Him… simply makes me happy. With Him I can grow, meet challenges, endure hardships, be provided for, not suffer loneliness or meaninglessness… (I never suffered that adolescent sense of being lost and finding my identity, as did many friends. In fact, I guess my “ministry” life started as I helped many of those friends find Him and their meaning in Him, way back then).

    So many people go through life as “reactors”… just knee-jerking their responses to whatever assails them day by day. Job, economics, family situations, health challenges… they’ll say it is all they can do to “keep up with life”. They sleep-walk… “reactors” rather than “proactors”.

    Self-actualizing, for me, is waking up to the fact that we are not “objects in the universe at the mercy of cosmic random forces”. We are sacred beings, “Selves”… and we ARE, we EXIST, and we are created in the Image of God to DO something, BE something, and PLAY OUR PART in what is the miracle of the created cosmos.

    You just can’t do that sleepwalking… And, what’s even more incredible, doing this is fulfilling… gives our lives meaning, hope, joy, in our capacity to relate to God as our Father, Jesus as the Firstborn among many brethren, and the Holy Spirit present in us and with us, as together we dwell in the Father.

    Can anyone imagine any greater satisfaction than THAT? I never could. So, I confess, I am deeply “into self-satisfaction and self-actualization”, which I find possible only THROUGH Jesus, and then leading even more fully into the heart of the Father and presence of the Spirit.

    What was that He said to Moses, when asked His name? “I Am Who Am”… the ultimate statement of self-actualization. I, for one, have had to learn to do the same. First, to understand that I AM… and then explore how He means that to be lived out in my world of His Kingdom.

    You always give great ponders… Thank you, Don! Blessings and grace to thee.

    • Don Merritt says:

      One of these days, we are just going to have to sit down and have a chat! Wonderful thoughts, as usual… I might offer another thought about your comments, for I’m not sure that I see the “self” in your “self-satisfaction” and “self-actualization,” for you have pointed out that they can come only through Jesus Christ. My thought is that there is a massive distinction between satisfaction and realized potential through Jesus as opposed to through “self.” Through Jesus these things can be attained as we set self aside to serve Him, as opposed to serving only myself to attain the greatest advantage for Me, as the secular world might advise. You have, in my view, described self-less living in Christ, which of course is the object for a Christian, or so it appears to me.

      As always, thanks for sharing your insight; blessings,


      • Little Monk says:

        Yes, wouldn’t it be fabulous to sit down one day over a bottomless coffee pot, and just let fly with the wonders of this incredible family? Well, who knows… perhaps one day.

        And clearly, in our “disagreement” here, there is no disagreement. We are just looking at the word “self” with glasses of slightly differing color. I see the self as: what I truly am, as fashioned and breathed into by God. Another way to see the self is: our identity or ego as free standing and independent of any or all others, the center of our universe, our own personal ‘god’ to which all moments are opportunities for sacrifice to our own fulfillment and pleasure. Some writers refer to this dichotomy as the distinction between the “True Self” (self as we truly exist, in God, who upholds all things by the word of His power (present tense, that)); versus the “False Self” (personal identity as filtered through the illusions, delusions, and lies of Original Sin).

        I like that presentation. Beyond that, especially in this past year, God has really pulled me up short time and again on the difference between the “I” and the “me”. That the “I” is what I AM in the here, and now. The “I” is where I can love, pour out self, pray, share grace, relate, worship, walk in Him. In my own universe, Little Monk can only exist as “I”, and in that there is obedience. But, there is the constant temptation, rather than dealing sacredly with each moment encountered by the “I”… there is the temptation to “double-clutch” to the “me”. “How will this affect ME? What will people think of ME? How will this benefit ME? What if this hurts ME?” etc, etc, etc.

        Our gentle and gracious Lord has been kind enough to point out that nearly every single time I blow it, it’s because I let the “me” get the upper hand. The rule He has placed on my life, to correct this little problem is… “The ‘me’ is to be totally reserved to the Father. The Father will deal with all matters of pain, pleasure, reactions, comfort, provision, and care. ‘I’ am to focus exclusively on the grace flowing in that moment from God, and ‘lensing’ it out into the relationship, environment, situation… whatever the moment is. And the RESULT of that, is none of my business… the Father will deal with that back to ‘me’.”

        So, kind sir, I think you are dead right. There is an aspect, an element, of ‘me’ that tries to see the world as existing to be poured out for my own consumption and pleasure. That is a wrong view… not only ‘morally’… but ‘practically’. It is incorrect, beyond wrong. The whole point of Sermon on the Mount was to rewire such a view, remove that feedback loop. We are NOT to deal with life dependent on how life deals with us. The Father deals with us. Period. Now… we flow that grace out into life without condition or calculation.

        We very much agree, but I would distinguish the “I” self, from the “me” self. Why does it matter? Because so many people don’t know how to love themselves, therefore they fail to treat themselves as sacred. Jesus was pretty straight up when He ordered, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That could be stated, “Love yourself as your neighbor,” just as easily. I’ve always liked CS Lewis’ discussion of “Humility” in the Screwtape Letters as expressing these ideas well.

        I’m wondering if my words make sense, lol. I really struggled with this concept back in October, I think before you started to follow, in a post on Postmodern Mystic called “Sinless Rules — Part IV: Love Yourself”. If you get a chance to look at that, I’d love to know what you think.

        Anyway! Cheery wave, dear brother. Grace and joy to you and all here!

  2. paulfg says:

    I am so very glad your have both found each other. The comments between you are “must read material”. Your words witness, your thoughtful responses full of affection witness, your love of the lord shines through each time you converse. Very special. Very God-full.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Glad you joined us, Paul. Help yourself to a cup of coffee and join the party! It is a real blessing to share God’s amazing love with brothers and sisters in Christ where ever they may be!

  3. dyfedwyn says:

    Tough message … but so true.

  4. Kelly Grace says:

    That verse in Matthew tells us exactly how we can be and/or recognize the greatest among us. Jesus came to serve and if it was good enough for Him, well you know it has to be good enough for us if we have an ounce of sincerity about being Christian. That verse is also a promise. It’s a promise that one day the upside system of this world will be replaced by the righteous side up system designed by God. The humble will be exalted and certainly the proud will be humbled. Aren’t we glad He told us before it was too late:)
    Ditto to paulfg’s comment about your exchange with Little Monk: must read’s list material.

  5. Pingback: The Greatest Among Us | A disciple's study

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