When he was in the house, [Jesus] asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
The disciples wanted to be first and greatest. They wanted pride of place and the material success that goes along with it. This is the way of our world. In fact, it's hardwired into our sinful nature. We don't have to teach our children to be this way. It comes naturally to them. As I work with children I see it regularly. They all want to be the line leader for the day. They want to be able to do the best cartwheel in their class. They want to get better grades than their friends. Those who win often brag and those who come in last place are often made fun of.
Sadly, many of us never outgrow this behavior. Even as adults we compete to claw our way up the social or corporate ladder. Men and women have proven over and over again that they will do anything to get ahead, to be first, to be the greatest. This is the way of our world. But Jesus shows us a better way.
He says, "I came not to be served but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). As we read the gospels we never find Jesus bragging. Never do we see Him showing off (though the Devil tempted Him to in Matthew 4:5-7). Though He was incredibly poor in material possessions, we never find Him using His spiritual riches to leverage worldly success. (The Devil also tempted Him with worldly success in Matthew 4:8-10). Not once do we hear Jesus say, "I will restore your eyesight... for $50."
No, Jesus used His gifts to serve, teach, heal, and help other people. Let's do the same. Instead of expending so much effort trying to be first and best, let's strive to be kind, helpful and loving. Let's serve. Beware of those who use their blessings and their spiritual gifts to gain material blessings and make a name for themselves in this world. And be wary of falling into the same trap yourself.