Leading From the Bottom Rung

Reading: Matthew 17-20

Many mothers are ambitious for their children—sometimes to a fault. My own personal hot button is Toddlers and Tiaras, a TV “reality” show that comes pretty close to child abuse in my book.

Wanting your kids to succeed in life isn’t necessarily a bad thing, nor is it uncommon. Take the case of James and John’s mother in Matthew 19, 20. Jesus opened the door to the discussion in Matthew 19. Peter commented that the disciples had given up everything to follow their Rabbi and he wondered what was “in it” for them as a reward for their sacrifice. Jesus answered: “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (19:28, NIV).

Mother heard this, or the boys reported Jesus’ comments to her and she followed up. If her boys were to sit on thrones, they should sit on the thrones closest to the Lord, shouldn’t they? So a little later, she approached Jesus to ask for a favour: “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right hand and the other at your left in your kingdom” (20:21, NIV).

She hadn’t considered what it was going to cost to get her boys to the top. She didn’t understand what “follow” meant and the Lord was quick to explain that the position a) came with a price tag and, b) was not his decision to make (20:22, 23).

Then came the reality check. Selfish ambition is not a kingdom trait, but servanthood is. “Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever want to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many'” (20:25-28, NIV).

Are we as ambitious when it comes to providing opportunities for our kids to practice servanthood and sacrifice for the benefit of others as we are for them to bring home trophies, gain status, and become successful as the world defines success?

That was probably a sobering question for this mom—and her sons.


  1. Excellent point, Lynda. Many push their kids to be #1, when what they should REALLY be wanting is for them to be more like Christ. And follow the child's bent.

  2. Sometimes it IS difficult to embrace this picture of true success - servanthood. Especially for our children. Christ's definition of success is so different from how our culture defines it. I'm reminded of Joshua 1:8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. I needed this post today, Lynda - to keep me focused on God's definition of success! Thanks!

  3. Why is it always hardest with our kids? Our daughter's only 14, and I have no idea what God has planned for her, but I hope I train radical obedience over consumerism and social ambition. It's easier when I remember 1) God is in control, 2) He loves her way more than I ever could, 3) This world is not our home and is but a blip, 4) People are dying daily, passing into eternity, with our without Christ.

    Those realizations don't eradicate my parental struggles, but they do put them in perspective. Thanks for a great post!


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