Grow Through The Gospels - Matthew 23-24

Pastor Ed Young - Lead Pastor of Fellowship Church
Ed Young

June 24, 2024

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Grow Through The Gospels - Matthew 23-24

Read: Matthew 23-24

Matthew 23:11-12 The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Think

Who do you generally picture as “the greatest” in the world of sports, the entertainment arena, the workplace or your circle of friends? Jesus clearly defines “greatness” in this verse, but the “greatness” you value might really be who you wish you were or who you admire the most.  

Throughout history, human greatness has often been measured by status, money, or ability —based on achievements valued by society. Think of Alexander the Great, Shakespeare, and Bill Gates. They lived in different times and places but are celebrated for their remarkable achievements.

Every culture has its own meritocracies, and they aren't always bad. However, human definitions of greatness usually focus on being superior to others rather than loving them. This can appeal to our selfish and self-exalting tendencies. That’s why Jesus’s definition of greatness can feel so strange: “The greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11). It’s easy to think Jesus was speaking metaphorically, suggesting we should be kind while still trying to be great. But Jesus was serious — he meant we should genuinely aspire to be servants.

In most cultures, servanthood has been seen as a lowly position, not a path to greatness. Servants typically have low social status, and while they might hope to serve great people, it’s rare for someone to want to become a servant. Yet, in God’s kingdom, servanthood is the path to true greatness. Jesus showed us this by teaching that "the last will be first" and “those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Philippians 2:5–11, Matthew 20:16, Matthew 23:12). God encourages us to put others’ interests above our own (Philippians 2:3–4), creating a unique system that values humility and service over self-promotion.

When Jesus said, “The greatest among you shall be your servant,” he was calling out the religious leaders of his time for their hypocrisy. They did their good deeds to be seen by others, seeking human approval rather than true righteousness (Matthew 23:2–7). This pursuit of recognition and admiration led them to value personal benefit and reputation over the real good of others. That’s the sign of misplaced greatness: caring more about yourself than about others.

So, what greatness do you really value? Our ambitions reveal our true values. It’s not wrong to want to be great, but it is wrong to want a selfish, idolatrous form of greatness. Kingdom greatness is all about loving and serving others, trusting that God will lift us up at the right time and in the right way. This otherworldly greatness comes from truly understanding God’s grace and wanting to give to others what we have freely received (Matthew 10:8).

Apply

How do you seek to serve others? Are you serving in your local church? It may be as simple as helping a neighbor with their groceries. Put others’ needs before yours.

Pray

Heavenly Father, thank you for the example of servanthood found in Jesus. Help me to align my heart with yours. Give me wisdom to repent when my desires are not in line with what you want for me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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