…. they were unschooled, ordinary men …. they had been with Jesus …. the crippled man healed standing with them – Acts 4:13,14

The disciples’ greatest argument, rivalry .. hushed by Jesus humility

There were 3 occasions when the 12 disciples had an argument in the gospels.
On all 3 occasions, the issue was the same:
Amongst them … “Who is the greatest?”

anything you can do … I can do … better?
only one winner? … the winner takes it all?

A recurring question
… “Who is the greatest?”

Are we competitive competitors, rivals, … trying to outdo each other or outdo the other group?

Like the disciples, Its quite easy for us to shift away our focus on Jesus,

“… something happened   
thru   me”,
Jesus makes things happen”
Praise God!

“…. something happened   because   of me”
I can make things happen”

Its interesting that the gospel writers did not photoshop away the rivalry and arguments amongst the  disciples,
as they tried to figure out their ranking order or Jesus’ organisation chart
… (who’s the high performing or low performing disciple? )

Even more interesting was how Jesus defused the conflict with simplicity.
As usual his short replies are insightful.

In this post, we’ll examine 2 of the occasions when this argument arose amongst the disciples.
… “Who is the greatest?”

The third time the disciples jostled for greatness was at the last supper.
Please kind refer to this post,  Who’s the super greatest at the last supper? What’s a leader’s heart like? (click here)

We’ll also explore what Jesus mean by humility.

Related previous posts on conflicts in church:
Resolving conflict & disagreement in church ministry, & leadership transition (click here)
How Christ-like humility disarmed a Chinese community fight (click here)

down on my knees, that’s where I learned to stand
I can’t even walk, without You holding my hand

Seeing a little child through the eyes of Jesus

Luke 9:43-50 (NIV) – Matthew 18:1-5, Mark 9 :30-41
While everyone was marveling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, 44 “Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you:

The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.”

45 But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.

46 An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest.

47 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him.
48 Then he said to them,
Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me;
and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.
For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”

49 “Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.”

50 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.”

In this passage, besides Jesus and the 12 disciples,  there was a little child.
Also mentioned, was someone  else who was driving out demons in Jesus name.

On that day, amongst the disciples, there was an argument on which of them would be the greatest.
Each one voiced his aspiration, and tried to outshine, out-market the others with his own yardstick, … KPIs and personal achievements.

Bible knowledge?  Long hours praying?
Great faith?  Number of people led to Lord?
Number healed?  Most gifted?, etc, etc

As they tried to out-justify one another as to who is most deserving to be the greatest,
as each started hitting their one-note piano,  “Me … Me … Me“,
… their voices grew more intense, more dissonant with each note

Their conversation was beginning to sound like the good Pharisee who prayed out loud his accomplishments and achievements
11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself:
‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people … Luke 18:11 (NASB)
in Jesus’ parable of the prayer of the Pharisee and tax collector in the temple. (Luke 18:9-14)

Jesus hushed the argument with a simple and memorable answer,

however, … no winners were announced.

 it is the one who is least among you all
who is the greatest

Everyone has an equal chance to be great in Christ.

the greatest = the one who is least among you all
Humble attitude in acts, in deeds


Honestly, …
no one wants to be the least, … the unknown,
the one who serves everyone, … the unsung,
the one who listens  to everyone,
the one who quietly cleans up when everyone is gone.

Humility, … Jesus style.

The great fault, I think, in our mission is that
no one likes to be second

— Robert Morrison (1782-1834), missionary to China


The second fiddle.
I can get plenty of first violinists,

but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm,
that’s a problem.
And if we have no second fiddle,
we have no harmony.

— Leonard Bernstein, New York Philharmonic

Consider Joseph who faithfully played second fiddle for Potiphar, the prison warden and Pharoah.  In each posting, he was trustworthy giving his full support, serving his master’s vision.  A competent COO, … who never became a CEO.

By how Joseph lived his everyday life,
 his master saw that
the Lord was with him

and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did
Genesis 39:2 (NIV)

God’s hand was tangibly on Joseph,
and his master saw it,
God gave Joseph favor with his bosses,
even when he was a slave, … a nobody.

the one who is least among you all
is the greatest

the greatest = least ego,
willing to humbly esteem, honor, collaborate and support others,
willing to submit to others, .. serve others.

When ego is hushed, … arguments, rivalry are silenced.

While everybody was jostling to be a somebody,
Jesus said,
to be a somebody,
start by being a nobody.

Humbly, look beyond our interests, … ambitions,
to the interests, .. needs, .. aspirations, … of others, … even little children.

Jesus explained with an   example  of what He meant by humility: 
Whoever welcomes this little child in my name
welcomes me;
and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me

From seeking one’s honor,
… “who’s the greatest” honors,

to seeking to honor one another,
… honoring a child, … the least in our midst,
in humility, … in love.

Paul paraphrased Jesus’ words:

Be devoted to one another in love
Honor one another
above yourselves  

Love one another with brotherly affection.
Outdo one another in showing honor.
Romans 12:10 (NIV, ESV)

When you do things,
do not let selfishness or pride be your guide.
Instead, be humble
and give more honor to others than to yourselves.

in humility
value others above yourselves

in humility
regard others as better than yourselves.

Philippians 2:3 (NCV, NIV, NRSV)

In humility, … in love.

Consider, … when fellowshipping with little children,
we stoop down, … so that we are at eye level with them,
we walk … at a pace that’s comfortable for them,
we chat … in simple words,
taking the time to answer their curiosity, … listening to them patiently, … helping them to articulate,
… drawing out their concerns, desires, dreams,
and, ….
enjoy the simple pleasures, … that little ones enjoy.
When playing games with them,
… there are times we set them up to win, … to beat us in the game, … so that they too can feel the joy of triumph and achievement.
Ultimately, … sharing   memorable moments of delight   together, with one another.

Interestingly, with little children, … we’re quick to forgive and forget their slip-ups,
and so do little children as well, … who easily forgive and forget our slip-ups.

David wrote about the Lord,
… You support me with your right hand.
You have stooped to make me great.
Psalm 18:35 (NCV)

Paul wrote:
To the weak I became weak,
that I might win the weak;
I have become all things to all men,
so that I may by all means save some.
1 Corinthians 9:22 (NASB)

Notice Paul wrote he became weak, … to serve the weak,
(instead of him being strong)

Down-to-earth, practical, servant-hearted compassionate service to others
helps one avoid spiraling into
“arrogant, lost touch with the people”  leadership,

Charles Swindoll:

Humility of mind is really an attitude, isn’t it?
It’s a preset mentality that determines ahead of time thoughts like this:

*   “I care about those around me”
*   “Why do I always have to be first?  I’m going to help someone else win for a change.”
*   “Today, it’s my sincere desire to curb my fierce competitive tendencies and turn that energy into encouraging at least one other person.”
*   “I willingly release my way this day.  Lord, show me how You would respond to others, then make it happen in me.”
Source:  Charles Swindoll, Improving Your Serve, Thomas Nelson, 2004, Chapter 3.

2 hands

Whoever welcomes … this little child
Humbly serving, loving, embracing … a little child like our family.
We’re not in competition,

but, in collaboration & teamwork, .. one family,
humbly serving & loving one another,
dependent on one another.

Looking out for one another, … a child,
… the weak, … the least,
their needs, … the needs of others,
rather than
focusing on oneself, one’s ambition, one’s need to be significant, … to be great
… to be in the limelight

No place for envy, jealousy, rivalry, strife, pride
… or independence, ‘know-it-all

this little child
Every single person is precious and greatly loved by Him,
even the youngest little child in our midst.

welcomes … in my name
in the character of Jesus, … we minister, bless others.

Our attitude, … in our welcome, in our service to others.
Our verbal, and non-verbal actions reveal our hearts.

The disciples’ concern  was — which of them would be the greatest.

Jesus shifts the focus away from
organizational,  hierarchical positions of title, power, status and prestige;
the coveting of high positions, … power structures,
and “me … me … me”, … personal honors & glory.

Whoever welcomes this little child in my name
welcomes me;
Jesus focus is on our daily actions, … humble service
— welcoming, loving people, caring for individuals, … even a little child.
Honoring others.

The honor given to the greatest,
is the same honor given to a little child.

From clamoring for honors for oneself,
to honoring others, … a little child.

welcomes me
when a little child is welcomed & loved
as much as welcoming & loving
Jesus, Himself.

Father kissing toddler son

Jesus captures the essence of greatness
in a down-to-earth, simple, everyday action,
done to serve a little child.
Something anyone can do,
even, … a child.

Welcoming, loving someone’s child
like our very own

Greatness is not found in position or title,
… rather, … its an everyday heartfelt, practical moment,
i.e. a lifestyle,
living out God’s word.

Consider, …
would we still do the things we do, … minister, serve, bless, etc,
if there’s no titles, no positions, no applause, no honors,
no pay?

…. just serving one child ?

Whoever welcomes this little child in my name
welcomes me;
there’s no major or minor acts of service,
no greater or lesser ways to serve,
all are important.

“And the King will say,
‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to
one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,
you were doing it to me!’
Matthew 25:46 (NLT)

The greatest
— from self-serving, self-importance, self-promotion, self-benefit
humbly serving others, … a little child, in love,
one child at a time.

helping the weak, … helping those in need,
helping others … to soar, to achieve, to succeed, to win.

A great example of serving and loving the least,
was the Centurion who sought Jesus to heal his humble servant.

From clamoring for honors with pomp and ceremony like VIPs,
humbly welcoming & serving others … even a little child;
unknown, unspoken, unnoticed.

From dwelling on our own personal needs, concerns, dreams & hopes, ambitions
Jesus challenges us to focus to
a little child‘s needs, concerns, dreams & hopes, ambitions

Like the disciples, it takes time for us to change, … to live out God’s word.
After this account amongst the disciples of “who is the greatest?”
Matthew and Mark records in the next chapter,

13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them,
but the disciples rebuked them.

14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant.

He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

16 And he took the children in his arms,
placed his hands on them
and blessed them.
Mark 10:13-16 (NIV)

Jesus lived out … His word.

Let the little children come to me,
… for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

In the Bible God used … little children and youths (eg Samuel, David),
… and people beyond 100 yrs old (eg Noah, Moses, Abraham).

Thus, in the kingdom of God,
rather than age or seniority
or qualifications or achievements,
or titles, appointments,

what matters is   faith, hope & love, … (whatever one’s age)

Other examples:  David was the youngest;  Joseph was the youngest before Benjamin was born.

In the miracle of the feeding the 5000,
When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip,
“Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up,
“Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, …”
John 6:8, 9 (NIV)

The disciples, … and the boy saw the need.

The boy wanted to help.
Jesus welcomed the boy’s small offering,
and multiplied his gift to feed the 5000.
Jesus saw the boy’s faith!

On another note, perhaps, … in anticipating undesirable attitudes towards younger believers,  Paul counseled Timothy,
Let no one look down on your youthfulness …
1 Timonhy 4:12

When the least, insignificant,
without status person,
eg.   a child,
is welcomed & loved
as much as
the great, prominent, respected, gifted, rich, well-known,VIP,  etc

A child … is not able to repay back our kindness and favor.
thus, .. serving others, … without expecting anything in return.

How’s our attitude & thoughts towards people in other generations?
children, … youths, … seniors, … middle-aged, … etc

Never speak harshly to an older man, but appeal to him respectfully as you would to your own father.
Talk to younger men as you would to your own brothers.

Treat older women as you would your mother,
and treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters.
1 Timothy 5:1,2 (NLT)

welcomes me
when the least is welcomed & loved
as much as welcoming & loving
Jesus, Himself.

Seeing a little child, …. &  others,
through the eyes of Jesus.

Whoever welcomes this little child in my name
welcomes me

From ministry in front of large crowds,
just an audience of  … one, … a little child.

Would we serve or share just as wholeheartedly, fervently and faithfully,
… if … only,
… one person showed up?

All ministry is  unto Jesus, Himself.
As we serve & love others,
we are loving & serving Jesus.

Its interesting that “the greatest”  yardstick in Jesus kingdom
is not a measure of intellect, qualifications, … study, gifts,
or devoutness, piousness, experience, etc.

… its about our attitudes,
in our everyday, ordinary, simple acts
of humble service in blessing someone else, … in  love, in humility.

Measure it in …. love,

1 Samuel 16:6, 7 (NIV)
When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.

The Lord does not look at the things people look at.
People look at the outward appearance,
but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Ever felt un-welcomed or ignored? … given the cold shoulder?
… not being heard?

A welcome is usually  the first contact,
the first impression to anyone,

… giving a warm handshake, a hug, …  or a cold shoulder?

welcoming someone,

not ignoring,
not being overlooked, or forgotten

Everyone matters.

In the business world — undercover boss, … mystery shopper;
the memorable service received at certain shops, banks,
airlines, restaurants, etc … (church?)

In Bible times, welcome = hospitality
… sharing, service, help, .. a meal, .. a place to stay for the night.

Hebrews 10:1,2 (NIV)
Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers,
for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

this verse mentions about
loving brother and sisters,
hospitality to strangers,
hospitality to angels

Some examples of Bible characters who entertained angels  – Abraham in Genesis 18:1-8, Gideon in Judges 6:11, 19-24.

To love another person is to see the face of God.”
― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

Also, … at the heart of the matter is
respect & honor,
to both the great …. and to the least
equally alike.

“Whoever welcomes this little child in my name
welcomes me;
and whoever welcomes me
welcomes the one who sent me … ”

One one occasion, Jesus was invited to the house of Simon the Pharisee,
Jesus informed Simon, ,
“44 … I came into your house.
You did not give me any water for my feet, …
46 You did not put oil on my head, … ”
Luke 7:44, 46 (NIV)

Thus, let us honor and be gracious to everyone;
honor the very least, …. the youngest.
Serve the very least;
not ignore them or overlook them.

Mark 10:45 (NIV)
45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve,
and to give his life
as a ransom for many

Jesus is our example.

Luke 15:1,2 (NIV)
 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.
But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered,

“This man welcomes sinners
and eats with them

Jesus’ actions spoke His Word.

Serving, loving without a judgmental attitude or discrimination,

respecting all, serving all, … fellowshipping, and eating their food,
each one special, unique, created in God’s image … even the least.

Discarding our pre-conceived conclusions or prejudice,
broad generalisations, or placing folks in broad, typical “boxes“, “labels“, characteristics, usefulness,
or judging a book simply by its cover,

treat each one we meet as a unique individual,
with unique experiences and gifts to share.

Welcome each one with an open heart, an open mind, and open hand,
embracing with open arms
as unto Jesus.

Paul wrote

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to
walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,

with all humility and gentleness,
with patience,
showing  tolerance for one another  in love, 

being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit
in the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:1-3 (NASB)

Live in harmony with one another.
Do not be proud,
but be willing to associate with people of low position.
Do not be conceited.
Romans 12:16 (NIV)

James wrote:

James 2:1-4 (NIV)
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ
must not show favoritism.

Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in.
If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes
and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,”
say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,”

have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

i.e. the rich and the poor both equally welcomed and respected.
Not giving some a better welcome (comfortable “business class” seats)
than others (floor seat);
not based on one’s net worth, or car they drive, or which suburb they live, job title,
… or size of their ministry, …
or ethnicity

Each and everyone is equal and precious in the eyes of God.

Romans 15:7 (NIV)
Accept one another, then,
just as Christ accepted you,
in order to bring praise to God.

Hence, extending grace to everyone,
just as we ourselves have received undeserved, unmerited grace & favor from God.
who has adopted us as His child into His family.

Ephesians 1:5 (NLT)
God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

Furthermore, … at the heart of serving the youngest and the least,
is a question of our priorities?

i.e. who is worth or worthy of our time, … our listening ear ?

While at school, a dear friend made an unforgettable compliment on a reputable professor, a busy man holding multiple appointments.  This prof is also a follower of Jesus.  My friend observed that whenever he visits his office,
… no matter how busy he is,
this prof will stop whatever he’s doing,
and take time to attend to a student’s query or need.

On a practical level, … reply messages, emails in a timely manner  (instead of silence),
or share a “how are you?” note, … now and then

Taking time off or timeout … to assist, to attend,
to listen,
in the midst of a crowded schedule with
more important things to do,
more important people to meet,

to pause … and listen,
… to observe, … to care

Consider, …
whenever something unexpected or serious happens,
who  (??)
do we know … that we can be count on
to practically & timely respond or visit,
to follow-up and follow-through ?

Or …
when one is in real need of someone to talk to,
who will we call ?

Its quite easy to discern one’s priorities
of one’s time and resources.
… those truly with a heart for people.

Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child
the youngest and the least are worthy of Jesus’ time,
and He gave the children His time.

Mathew 19:13, 14 (NIV)
Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them.
But the disciples rebuked them.

14 Jesus said, Let the little children come to me,
and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

15 When he had placed his hands on them,
he went on from there.

An example:

Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899)   didn’t attend school beyond the fifth grade; he couldn’t spell, and his grammar was awful. His manners were often brash and crude, and he never became an ordained minister. … Moody’s life of Christian service began with his conversion on this day, April 21, 1855.
…  Estimates vary, but Dwight Moody is thought to have led as many as a million people to confess faith in Christ. Among his many achievements on either side of the Atlantic was the founding of Moody Bible Institute., church history

Through D. L. Moody’s ministry, several of the Cambridge Seven came to a personal relationship with Christ.  They later went on to the inland provinces of China to spread the gospel.
Source:  Missions Dream Team, Christianity Today

Here’s how D.L. Moody started in ministry,  … with children from poor families

When D.L. Moody, a traveling shoe salesman from Massachusetts came to Chicago in 1856, the needs of the city’s poor — especially in children — touched him. In 1858, he started a Sunday school mission just for them in the city’s most impoverished area — The Sands.
… Two years later, over a thousand children — and their parents — came to the Sunday school each week, and when Abraham Lincoln came through Chicago en route to be inaugurated as president, he stopped by to visit and spoke briefly to the children.

Moody discovered to his chagrin that churches did not want these “rowdy urchins” to come within their doors, so he began a church of his own.

… The church wasn’t formally renamed “The Moody Church” until 1908, nine years after death of D.L. Moody in 1899.

On the outside of Moody’s original building, Moody insisted that a sign be placed at the door:
Ever welcome to this house of God are strangers and the poor.
The same words are found at the entrance of The Moody Church today. ….
If the gospel is for everyone, then all who receive the good news are members of the body of Christ and should be treated equally.
— E.W. Lutzer, He will be the Preacher, Moody Publishers, 2015, pg 126, 127.

As a body of believers,

1 Corinthians 12:24-26 (NIV)
24 … But God has put the body together,
giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it,

25 so that there should be no division in the body,
but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.

26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it;
if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Diversity, variety (like parts of a body),
having equal concern for each other.

no division in the body
by each part having equal concern for each other,
each part caring about the others (CEV).

When believers are joyfully caring and serving the concerns of others,
there’s little time to argue with fellow believers on matters such as,
who is the greatest?” 🙂

Back to our original passage in Luke 9,
Jesus answer to the disciples’ next question reinforced His definition of greatness,

“… someone driving out demons in your name
and we tried to stop him,
because he is not one of us.”

50 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said,
“for whoever is not against you is for you.”

Although this anonymous someone was not against them
or was opposing
 the twelve disciples in any way,

His ministry was raised to Jesus attention.
The disciples wanted to stop him.
And the reason washe is not one of us

Like the twelve disciples, this anonymous someone was also setting people free from demons in Jesus name, … exalting Jesus name.
Hence, Jesus said, “whoever is not against you is for you

Its not “them and us” … but “we“.  Same team.
We’re not in competition,
but in collaboration & teamwork; same family.
No place for rivalry or envy.

not …. independent

Seeing others, through the eyes of Jesus.

he is not one of us
Perhaps, … the disciples thought they, themselves, were an elite chosen few with special God given gifts and titles …
(eg.  driving demons in Jesus name).
An exclusive club, … “by invitation only“, … specially chosen, gifted

However, Jesus heart and plan was to empower and restore everyone who believes, with His love and power.
“everyone is special”,
everyone is gifted, cherished and loved by God.
Jesus wants to empower many more.
Praise God!

(see Luke 9:1,2 … and Luke 10:1, 17)

Moses also faced a similar situation,
here’s his sterling humble, magnanimous reply

Numbers 11:27-29 (NIV)
A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”
28 Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said,
“Moses, my lord, stop them!”

29 But Moses replied,
“Are you jealous for my sake?
I wish that
all the Lord’s people were prophets

and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!”

A true leader rejoices when
others arise, soar and shine;
as their potential is fully unleashed and expressed.

Greatness, … releases the greatness in others,
unleashes  the best in others.

And sometimes, our protege may even outshine us, … eclipse us.
To God be the glory!!
Praise the Lord!

Eg. Paul encouraged and supported Timothy‘s ministry (1 & 2 Timothy).
Barnabas went to find Paul to join him in ministry at Antioch.  Barnabas gave Paul his first gig.

Put yourself aside,
and help others get ahead. …
Philippians 2:4 (MSG)

( rather than just,
… “pursue your dreams” … “live your passion”,
… “find your destiny” …. “stand out from the crowd”
sound-bites & slogans  )

Back to Jesus and his disciples,
the anonymous someone was driving out demons, … just like the twelve disicples.
Hence, there’s only one common enemy — the devil.
(not one another)

for whoever is not against you is for you

Whenever believers are actively engaged against the evil one,
setting others free, leading others to Christ,
there’s little time to argue or find fault with other believers.
Or gossip, … or cause disunity, division, discord.

Ephesians 6:12 (NASB)
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,
but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

In Mark’s account of the disciples’ argument about who is the greatest,
a further statement from Jesus is recorded,

“Truly I tell you,
anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name
because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.”
Mark 9:41 (NIV)

gives you a cup of water in my name
Giving a practical blessing in His name,
a simple cup of water, … quenching someone’s thirst

belong to the Messiah
a part of God’s family.

Hence, greatness is to be like Jesus,
in humility,
having a respectful, generous, welcoming heart to everyone,
expressed through humble, warm, faithful service,
through simple everyday acts of compassion,
… like giving a cup of water,
For it is the one who is least among you all
who is the greatest.

An attitude of humility & love.

Seeing a little child, … & others,
through the eyes of Jesus,
serving a little child, … as unto Jesus.

Let’s follow Jesus example, and seek above all
to glorify the Lord … God’s glory.
He said,

John 7:18 (NIV)
Whoever speaks on their own
does so to gain personal glory,

but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him
is a man of truth
; there is nothing false about him.

Lord it over, exercise authority …  not so with you

The second time the disciples argued about who is the greatest,

Mark 10:32-45 (NIV)
Jesus said,
33 “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law.They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles,34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”

35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said,
we want you to do for us whatever we ask.
36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead,

whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,

44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.

45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve,
and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

On this occasion, the brothers James and John sneakily put their names forward for the top jobs, … (the start of the Zebedee dynasty?)
In Matthew’s account (Matthew 20), … their ambitious mum also got into the action, … (quite a soap opera 🙂 )

While Jesus spoke about his death on the cross, and resurrection in Jerusalem,
James and John were contemplating their future roles in the kingdom.

… when the others heard about this, it made them indignant — annoyed, angry at their unfair move … a ‘coup’, “they jumped queue”, ‘what about meritocracy?’, etc
How would Peter had felt, … wasn’t he also with James and John on the mountain when Jesus was transfigured in their midst? (Mark 9)

Again, Jesus answer is the same.
Follow His example,
the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve,

to become great among you must be your servant,
to be first must be slave of all.



rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,
and their high officials exercise authority over them.

Jesus contrasts His kingdom
from typical organisations and corporations,
where hierarchical position inherently translates into power, status, and prestige, respect,
… the corner office, the reserved carpark space,
being served by others, calling the shots.

Not so with you

the truly greatest in their midst,
exemplified this,

the Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve


serving God = humbly serving others in love, (not  lord it over others)

to become great among you must be your servant,
to be first must be slave of all.

Hence, its not ego or title driven,  … ‘me’ centered.
servant, … slave ….

Rather, the focus is having a heart of service,
… desiring  others to be blessed, ministered and grow closer to the Lord..

Inevitably, most leaders (in various fields) experience
some form of criticisms, grumblings, complaints, mis-understandings, leadership challenges, un-appreciative comments, jealousy, rivalry, etc.

How we handle such moments depends on our attitude.
And through our response, … others discern our motivations, sincerity & focus.

Having a humble servant heart with an attitude to serve others,
and desiring others to grow & draw closer to the Lord,
helps us to focus on what is really important, … the ‘big‘ picture,
and to please God;

rather than
justifying ourselves, .. justifying our actions all the time,
or be a people-pleaser.

nothing to prove, nothing to lose,
no one to impress, no loss of face.
always, … room to improve

Furthermore, by humbly receiving critique from others
gives us opportunities to reflect, self-examine,
… to grow and improve.

However, please note
humility …  is  not  humiliation.

As each disciple, jostled … “look at me, … look at me

Let’s look at Him!

He  is the greatest,
…. Jesus.

Fixing our gaze upon Jesus.

Hebrews 12:2 (HCSB)
keeping our eyes on Jesus,
the source and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross
and despised the shame and
has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.

the Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve

In Christ’s leadership or shepherd-ship,
the focus is serving the needs and concerns of others

This begins with  first humbly finding out what others really need.
Being culturally and generationally sensitive.
Find out what is meaningful to them,
Building, strengthening relationship.  Relationship-based.

instead of
assume, presume what others need from afar,
from our perspective;
benefactor/client relationships,
one-size-fits all, cookie cutter approaches/programs.

Humble service to others,
is about being a practical blessing to others,
with conceiving achievable, practical plans within the abilities of people who come to help.

rather than,
being served by others, … exercising authority &  power over others,
or just barking orders.

Its also not outcome-focused
or measured by results, performance,
or honors/rewards,
or a prestigious position in a hierarchical organisation chart.

but to serve
A heart attitude,
a heart response to someone’s needs,
meeting another’s practical needs,
kindness, service
to a fellow person.

Praise God! … This is within the reach of anyone,
… even the youngest 🙂

Hence, Jesus leveled the playing field,
so that all of us can win together as a team.

to become great among you must be your servant,
to be first must be slave of all.

Interestingly, here’s how some started out before the Lord exalted them into greatness:

Joseph started life in Egypt as a unknown slave.
Nehemiah started out as a cupbearer.
Philip and Stephen wait on tables in the daily distribution of food to believers.

a servant, a slave … anonymous, unknown, unsung
little credit or prominence,
serving others quietly, … faithfully.

Hands-on, … in the thick of the action,
living, leading by example,
instead of command and control,
a lord it over others attitude

Following Jesus’ example, Paul wrote,

2 Corinthians 1:24 (NASB, MSG)
Not that we lord it over your faith,
but are workers with you for your joy;
for in your faith you are standing firm.

We’re not in charge of how you live out the faith,
looking over your shoulders, suspiciously critical.
We’re partners,
working alongside you, joyfully expectant.
I know that you stand by your own faith, not by ours.

Attitude – Not that we lord it over your faith
Relationship – We’re partners, working alongside you, joyfully expectant
Goal – you stand by your own faith, not by ours.

Love & humble service

Philippians 2:2-4  (MSG)
if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor:

Agree with each other,
love each other,
be deep-spirited friends.

Don’t push your way to the front;
don’t sweet-talk your way to the top.

Put yourself aside,
and help others get ahead.

Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage.
Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Heard this story from a pastor friend.

A man with little background in Jesus came to attend a weekly exploratory bible study of Jesus at a church.  He felt blessed by the sharing, the meals, the hospitality and friendly, helpful people at the church.
Out of sincere gratitude, he looked for a way to express it.  He volunteered to help out in church to “distribute brochures” (as he calls it).
The pastor agreed to his request.  He became the most cheerful and welcoming usher, … and soon he became a follower of Jesus 🙂

When believers joyfully care  & serve others,
walk alongside others, assist others to grow and soar,
others are inspired to willingly follow.
There’s little need for command and control.
or arguments with other believers on
who is the greatest?” 🙂

On a side note,

whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,

In corporate business-speak …. “who is our customer?”
Impeccable, memorable, anticipatory  customer service experiences, ‘moments of truth’.

In conclusion , like to share something memorable I read in the media,

A well-known Nobel laurette in a scientific field was in town and was being interviewed by a journalist.
At the close of the interview, the journalist asked,

“Amongst all your many great achievements,
… how would you want to be remembered”.

His wise and honest reply was:

We’ll all be forgotten.”

The third time the disciples jostled for greatness was at the last supper.
Please kindly refer to this post,  Who’s the super greatest at the last supper? What’s a leader’s heart like? (click here)

Keeper of the Door    – Twila Paris

I dreamed I saw my name in lights
And spoke Your word for all to hear
I dreamed my name was recognized
By people far and people near

But I have come to understand
Like David long ago
That humble service in Your house
Is still the greatest dream a heart can hold

Oh, let me be a servant, a keeper of the door
My heart is only longing to see forever more
The glory of Your presence the dwelling of the Lord
Oh, let me be a servant, a keeper of the door

The One who was no less than God
Took on the flesh of lowly men
And came to wash the feet of clay
Because it was Your holy plan

And I, no greater than my King
Would ever seek a place
Of humble service in Your house
To gaze into the light that is Your face

Oh, let me be a servant, a keeper of the door
My heart is only longing to see forever more
The glory of Your presence the dwelling of the Lord
Oh, let me be a servant, a keeper of the door

(see also Psalm 84, Psalm 27:4)

Richard Halverson, former US Senate Chaplain:

In the beginning the Church was a fellowship of men and women who centred their lives on the living Christ. They had a personal and vital relationship to the Lord. It transformed them and the world around them.
Then the Church moved to Greece, and it became a philosophy.
Later it moved to Rome, and it became an institution.
Next it moved to Europe and it became a culture.
Finally it moved to America, and it became an enterprise.
We’ve got far too many churches and so few fellowships.”

Serving Quietly Shepherd Leadership

by 林弟兄, bro Lim
June 5, 2016

Copyright © 林弟兄 bro Lim, Laymanointing, 2014-2016 – All Rights Reserved
Creative Commons License


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