Give it All to Have it All

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She could never have imagined what she was asking.

In Matthew 20:20-28 we read the story of an ambitious mother (is there any other kind?) trying to pave the path to success for her sons. The mother of James and John (who, by temperament where perfectly able to plead their own case) asked Jesus if He would allow her boys to occupy the seats of honour beside the Lord when He established His kingdom (20:21). Obviously she didn’t really have a clear picture of what kingdom she was actually referring to, but hey...!

James and John were right there to answer the first question on the application form: “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” (20:22). Either they were hopelessly starry-eyed, as we often are when we are asked to be brave without actually being faced with a situation that requires us to BE brave, or they simply had not made the connection between the kingdom and the death of their Master, announced earlier (20:17-19)—for the third time!

But there was a bigger issue here than that of the seating arrangements in glory.

Jesus told them all that the résumé He wanted to see from His followers didn’t have room on it for position, power, and prestige. What it did have room for was servanthood.

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 wants 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).

How God defines success is very different from society’s definition of it. Unhappily we, as individuals and as the church, often buy into society’s definition since it is easier to promote position, power and prestige than it is to promote sacrifice.

I am reminded here of the Christian parents who unashamedly used the bait of position, power and prestige to persuade their daughter and son-in-law to abandon service overseas as missionaries before they had even completed their first term.

Jesus warned His disciples that the world’s agenda wasn’t His agenda and if they were serious about following Him, their priorities in life had to make a radical shift from having it all to giving it all. Then they would get the choice seats in the real kingdom.

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