Leviticus 25:47-26:13; Mark 10:32-45; Psalms 45:7-17; Proverbs 14:17-19
OT: “Do not make worthless idols for yourselves, set up a carved image or sacred pillar for yourselves, or place a sculpted stone in your land to bow down to it, for I am the Lord your God. Keep my Sabbaths and revere my sanctuary; I am the Lord. If you follow my statutes and faithfully observe my commands, I will give you rain at the right time, and the land will yield its produce, and the trees of the field will bear their fruit… I will give peace to the land, and you will lie down with nothing to frighten you. I will remove dangerous animals from the land, and no sword will pass through your land. You will pursue your enemies, and they will fall before you by the sword… I will turn to you, make you fruitful and multiply you, and confirm my covenant with you… I will place my residence among you, and I will not reject you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, so that you would no longer be their slaves. I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to live in freedom.” (Leviticus 26:1-4, 6-7, 9, 11-13 CSB)
I have had to privilege of traveling to a part of the world that does not have at its core a belief in God. Instead, their entire system of belief is framed within their susceptibility to millions of gods. In every house and place of business are idols, carved images, sacred pillars, and sculpted stone. At every major intersection are temples erected to hopefully appease the gods. Because of this, they live perpetually in the uncertainty and hopelessness of fatalism. As I walked through the temple-ridden streets, I couldn’t help but weep over the millions of people that sacrifice day after day, hoping to earn some favor by appeasing a man-made statue of wood. If that was how I reacted when I saw the pointless worship of idols, imagine the passion and concern in God’s voice as He instructed His people to forsake the worship of idols and serve only Him. By turning away from idols and choosing to serve the Lord in worship, you step out of mundane, pointless, lifeless fatalism, and into life, promise, and purpose. By humbling yourself before God alone and serving only Him, your life ceases to be meaningless and instead becomes great. God Himself dwells with you, walks with you, provides for you, protects you, exalts you and blesses you as a sign and wonder to the rest of the world. In our part of the world, we may not offer sacrifices to wooden idols – but we do sacrifice our lives at the altar of prestige, possessions, personal passions, and prosperity. Don’t make worthless idols for yourself. Worship the Lord and allow Him to give you His greatness.
NT: “James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached him and said, “Teacher, we want you to do whatever we ask you.” “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked them. They answered him, “Allow us to sit at your right and at your left in your glory.” Jesus said to them, “You don’t know what you’re asking. Are you able to drink the cup I drink or to be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” …When the ten disciples heard this, they began to be indignant with James and John. Jesus called them over and said to them, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions act as tyrants over them. But it is not so among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you will be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you will be a slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”” (Mark 10:35-38, 41-45 CSB)
In Matthew 19:28 (a parallel passage to this one) Jesus promised that in His kingdom to come, the 12 disciples would sit with Him on 12 thrones. As Jesus’ was headed to Jerusalem to meet His destiny, James and John decided to “call shotgun” before anyone else got the chance. This caused the other disciples to be indignant and gave Jesus a teaching opportunity. First of all, James and John had no idea what they were asking… they had no idea the cost that would be required, they just wanted the position. Secondly, in Jesus’ kingdom, the way up is the way down. Places of authority aren’t given to people looking for position… looking for power over others. Places of authority are given to those who lay their own preferences down and seek to serve others first. The one who humbles himself the most and becomes a slave to all is the one who is regarded as great in God’s kingdom. Many consider Mark 10:45 to be the key verse in the gospel of Mark, summarizing all that Mark’s gospel was written to communicate: Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many. The same should be true of us. As followers of Jesus, we should not go anywhere… anywhere looking to be served. On the contrary, we should go everywhere looking for opportunities to serve and give our lives to see others come to life. That is greatness.