After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, “What were you discussing out on the road?” But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”
Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.” (Mark 9:33-37)
The disciples, caught up in their constant struggle for personal success, were embarrassed to answer Jesus’ question. They had become so preoccupied with the organization of Jesus’ earthly kingdom that they had lost sight of its divine purpose. Instead of seeking a place of service, they sought positions of advantage. But Jesus encouraged the disciples to welcome children—those considered the “least” in society. Doing so was a reminder to them to be humble servants of God.
It is always painful to compare our motives with those of Jesus. It is not wrong for believers to be industrious or ambitious. But when ambition pushes obedience and service to one side, it becomes sin. Pride or insecurity can cause us to overvalue position and prestige. In God’s kingdom, such motives are destructive. The only safe ambition is directed toward God’s kingdom, not our own advancement. This is the true path to greatness.
Jesus described leadership from a new perspective. Instead of using people, we are to serve them. Serving others takes real leadership—the kind Jesus exemplified his whole life. Jesus’ mission was to serve others and to give his life away. A real leader has a servant’s heart. Servant leaders appreciate others’ worth and realize that they’re not above any job.
Many approach life expecting honors and special privileges. The servant leader instead looks for ways to help others. You can start by modeling God’s acceptance, compassion, and love for others. If you see something that needs to be done, don’t wait to be asked; take the initiative and do it like a faithful servant.