It's Not a Competition
"Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom… And he saith unto them…to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father. And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." (Mat 20:20-28)
I have noticed that everywhere you look there are awards for the best or biggest of everything. There are top ten lists, and biggest companies, and smartest people, and best movie and song and play. Of course there are also the Olympics and tournaments and playoffs for every sport imaginable. The human race seems obsessed with ranking everything and everybody. The goal is to win, get to first place, and be at the top. It's survival of the fittest out there in the jungle and everything is a competition.
It just seems natural to want the best. Man thinks the best is what creates the most wealth and prosperity or invents new technology and in general, makes life safer, easier or more pleasurable for everyone. So, we continuously compare and compete to find those things.
That ingrained competitive thinking spills over into other areas. We have the tendency to compare one against another to see who has the best prophecy and who has the best Bible study, who has the best worship music, and who can say the best prayers, etc., etc., etc.
And the award goes to...
If you compare the worst of mankind against the best of mankind the difference is insignificant when you compare any one of us against God. That should be obvious. But this idea of competition and ranking is so ubiquitous and ingrained in man's thinking that it is very difficult to get rid of it. Since we can't measure up to God, we end up constantly comparing ourselves to each other to see where we are. It's as if we think we can determine our own well-being or importance by our relative position to each other.
We really shouldn't do that. After all, it's not a competition.
God has created each of us as a unique individual. Each has gifts to share, and each gift has a purpose. Each life is a private journey, of a sort. We have interaction and relationship with each other, but in the end each person must stand before God on his own account. The goal is not to compete against each other; it is to reach the potential and purpose that God has defined for you.
So along comes Jesus and turns it all upside down. You want to be considered the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven? Then be a servant of God, willing to do as He asks, no matter what it is. To get rid of this idea of pride of place, we have to be willing to stoop down to the lowest level and serve the needs of others. Like this:
"So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." (Joh 13:12-17)
Imagine that! Man's thinking is that a King is the one with the most power over everything. The people are the subjects of the King and are to serve the King. We don't think of a King or Lord as the one who serves the needs of others. Yet, that is exactly what Jesus was. He served our needs, according to the will of the Father. That's how Jesus defines the greatest - as someone who serves the needs of others according to God's purpose and plan.
To be our best, the greatest we can be, to win God's favor, is not a competition between us. Each of us has the potential to be "the best" when we humbly submit to the will of God.