A powerful-sounding job title. An award that links your name to “Best.” A position that shows everyone that you are important. These things are nice—for the world. Some people will do anything to win these: betray, lie, cheat—basically, put their career before their families and faith. Then when a person has these things, we look at her and think, Wow. She has achieved so much. I wish I could be more like her.
Not every successful person has had to do immoral things to reach her position. But whether they’ve gotten there because of hard work or hard living (or both), worldly gains do not deserve our praise or admiration.
Check out Jesus’ attitude toward the chief priests and elders, the highest people in the Jewish church. Because of their lack of faith in Him, he told them that tax collectors and prostitutes would get to heaven before they would (Matthew 21:31).
“I don’t care who you are,” Jesus told them with this statement. He valued the weak, the poor, the sick—basically, the outcasts of society, infinitely more than He did the powerful and wealthy. He himself was the son of a carpenter and his young wife. His first apostles were not church leaders or people with any wealth or power—they were fishermen.
People who are considered great in this world should mean little to us—unless they are also people of great faith, and actions to back that faith up. The story before Jesus’ harsh indictment of the Jewish leaders illustrates this: a father tells two brothers to go work in the vineyard. One says he will not go, but actually does; the other says he will go, but does not. “Which one did the will of the father?” Jesus asks. “The first son,” his audience answers. Faithful actions mean more than words, this story shows us.
Our Savior is one who constantly humbled himself, and in the end, he humbled himself to the most humiliating, painful death possible. But yet, he delighted in drawing attention to the meek, and raising the hopes of the downtrodden. This is where our focus should lie: not on stroking the egos of people who are already successful, but finding ways to serve the people who need us most. When we lower ourselves, God will lift us up (James 4:10). And when we seek Him first, we’ll find that we have everything we need (Matthew 6:33).
However, when we start to live selfishly, we’ll find every kind of sin clamoring for first place in our lives: your temper will flare when someone wrongs you, you’ll start fights over unimportant things, you’ll feel jealous of people with more than you; you’ll tell lies to better your position; you’ll betray people who love you; you’ll love people because of the way they make you feel.
It’s easy to do. It’s the human thing to do: to live for ourselves. Jesus gave us a new way to be human, though, and its rewards are in heaven, not here on earth.