Mother of James and John, Matthew 20:20-28
In this passage, we have a very familiar situation. A parent wants the best for her children – and by the best she means opportunity, advancement, and recognition for demanding work. Here we have a mother who asked around to find the best synagogue teacher and the best donkey, field hockey league for her boys. She probably learned all the ways for them to get scholarships to Galilean Community College, too. And what is wrong with that? This is a good mother – we all know people like this, and in truth, many of us are very much like this person.
If our kids /grandkids have community service requirements for graduation or scholarships, don’t we stay abreast of how many hours they have done, or have left to go? Don’t we also look for opportunities to get the most hours for the least amount of work / pain? That is only smart. But what happens when they reach that required number? Do we insist that they keep on volunteering because God is blessed by our service to others, or do we congratulate them on meeting one milestone and encourage them to begin working on the next requirement for their opportunity and advancement? I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t in the second category.
Like the mother of James and John, many of us would like the reward for demanding work to equal power and prestige, but Jesus says we have the wrong formula (again). A Christian’s reward comes from service and that reward is more service, not advancement and recognition. Our service to one another is not a stepping stone to a higher level of prominence or prestige, it is just the opposite. Our service should make us aware of the overwhelming needs of others in the community so that we work harder and longer striving for justice. Instead of seeing a finish line defined by hours completed, we are to focus on the number of people still standing in line needing our help. It is a lifelong pursuit, not a once in a lifetime endeavor. We will set ourselves and our kids against God if we focus only on the prestige and advancement that the world offers and not the service to others which is pleasing to God.
(The phrase, “whoever wishes to be great among you must be the servant” flies in the face of the world’s wisdom and boy, if that is not the biggest oxymoron – the world’s wisdom!)