Someone in authority. What image does that cause your mind to instantly conjure up? Possibly a police officer? A boss maybe? The president of the country or even a general of an army? Or maybe even a king? All of these are valid examples of someone in authority. What do these examples have in common besides being in a position of authority? I would say the possibility of ‘corrupting’ their authority. Using it in the wrong way. A corrupt cop. A controlling, demeaning boss. A dictatorship. This has been seen over and over for thousands of generations and has constantly been a source of difficulty, oppression and heartache for the people under such rule.
There is another example of one in authority…the Son of God-Jesus Christ. He is called ‘Lord of lords and King of kings’, Son of God, the ‘First and the Last’, the ‘Alpha and the Omega’ and on and on we go with the numerous titles He holds. He is the ultimate authority over all. The Bible tells us,
‘Through Him all things were made and without Him nothing was made that has been made’ (John 1:3/ NIV)
Not only is Jesus considered preeminent (before all things) but, when He came as a man to this Earth, and died on the cross and rising from the grave, all authority in Heaven on Earth was granted to Him. (Matt 28:18). (This is because before the cross, Satan reigned in authority on this Earth but lost that authority back to Jesus Christ when He conquered death and the grave.) In Jesus is the ultimate authority over all creation but, in Him we find the greatest dichotomy of practicing authority, compared to how we think of authoritative figures acting throughout human history.
First of all, Jesus came as a man, yet being in His very nature, God Himself. This alone has to be the most humble move of all time. We are talking about the all-powerful creator becoming the lowly creation.
When was the last time a king chose to be treated as one of his servants?
Secondly, throughout Jesus’ ministry on Earth, He repeatedly emphasizes a specific message to His disciples. Serve. Not ‘be served’ but ‘serve’. In one instance a matter arose where two of the primary (inner circle) disciples argued over whether they would sit at the right and left hand of Jesus once He reigned over His kingdom. Of course this started off a firestorm of angst amidst the other disciples. Jesus responded though, however not as they expected:
‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant. And whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of man didn’t come to be served but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many.’ (Mark 10:42-45)
Here we have Jesus instructing his disciples on how they are to lead, and it’s nothing like what they are familiar with. Lead by serving? Lead by willing to be last? Honestly, who does that? Who thinks that way? Not many if any. But this is exactly what Jesus instructed them to do! Then He goes on to say that even He came to serve and not to be served. He sets the supreme example for every believer from there on, that authority has to do with humility. On another occasion we see Jesus even washing the feet of His disciples-a complete act of humility serving the very ones who He was leading! Paul the apostle echos similar sentiments throughout his letters in the New Testament:
‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit but in humility, consider others better than yourselves.’ (Phil 2:3/NIV)
‘Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others, considering others better than yourself.’ (Phil 2:4/NIV)
Now you may be asking yourselves, ‘what does this have to do with the title of this blog’? Well I’m glad you asked! Back in the 70’s there was popular sitcom on at that time, called ‘The Jeffersons’. Most anybody over 40 probably knows this show and can quote many of the one-liners from it as well. One of the most notable one-liners was ‘movin’ on up’. This referenced George and Weezy movin’ on up in life-bigger places, bigger things, more money, etc. Although this show was extremely comical, what’s not so comical is how a great many of us think the same way today. It’s all about movin’ on up! In our jobs, in our paycheck, in social status, in church…! (Sorry, did I say that? Yes I did.) Unfortunately this idea is prevalent everywhere-even in churches. Now don’t get me wrong, God wants to promote us in everything we do but it’s all about HOW we do it and the mentality we have in doing so.
Remember the verse I quoted previously from Mark? Jesus tells us that anyone who wants to be something great, does so by being a servant! Now that is completely backwards from how the world does it. The worlds way goes something akin to this:
“I will go to school to get the highest degree possible, get the best paying job, suck up to the boss, climb the corporate ladder, befriend whoever I have to, in order to get to the top, and I don’t care who I step on to get there.”
Sound vaguely familiar? It’s what we learn at an early age and perpetuate throughout our lives, constantly trying to get higher and higher in everything we do. But this is NOT the way Jesus laid out for us. This is NOT what God desires for His people. Jesus came and gave His life for His very creation. He came serving the very ones who He created. He gave His life as a sacrifice for all humanity, in obedience to the Father. Because of this He was exalted to the highest position there is. His humility and obedience in doing this, created His promotion. He served out of love. He gave His life and became temporarily separated from the Father…out of love. This is exactly how we should act and follow in His footsteps.
‘During the days of Jesus’ life on Earth, He offered up prayers and petitions to the one who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission. Although He was a son, He learned obedience from what He suffered and once made perfect, became the source of eternal salvation for all who will obey Him, and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.’ (Hebrews 5:7-10/NIV)
‘The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had: He always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to remain. Instead of this, of his own free will he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness. He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death—his death on the cross. For this reason God raised him to the highest place above and gave him the name that is greater than any other name. And so, in honor of the name of Jesus all beings in heaven, on earth, and in the world below will fall on their knees, and all will openly proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’ (Phil 2:5-11/TEV)
We see in these two scripture references, Jesus was exalted because He lived to serve and, He walked in humility towards God and man. He was obedient to live His life out this way and in doing so, God blessed Him with the highest honor. Want more Biblical evidence? Joseph, in the Old Testament, was another example of having a servant’s heart and being continually promoted, regardless of how others treated him or how situations appeared to be against him. He had a servant’s heart.
So…let me wrap this up and get to the point. We as followers of Jesus Christ, need to do the same. We need to live our lives in humility and in service to others. It’s God we need to trust in to promote us-not ourselves. Scripture tells us that God is the one who places all who are in authority anyways! (Romans 13:1) On your job, look for ways to serve others. Want to be in management? Serve others. Want to be head of your construction crew? Serve others. Serve your crew? Want to hold some responsibility in areas of ministry within the church? Walk in humility and serve others. And don’t serve to get. Serve to give-as Jesus gave His life for all. Serve because you love. In loving others and serving others, the Lord will take care of our needs and will promote us, even in situations where our promotion makes no sense considering our circumstances! It’s not about movin’ on up. It’s really about movin’ on down the totem pole of the world’s way of doing things…so serve and in doing so, God will move us on up to where He has for us. God will promote us! To God be the glory.