Social Influencers or Servants

Social Influencers or Servants

Matthew 23:1-12

“Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”

 

            We live in an age of entitlement, empowerment, and self-promotion.  We want to be noticed and recognized by others. Today's mantra is personal empowerment, in which we gain control of our lives and are given all the rights and power we believe we deserve.  We think that fame and fortune are the ticket to happiness.  Our culture is enamored with social influencers, the famous and the powerful.  We are obsessed with the celebrities. However, this obsession with recognition, notoriety, and power is not new.  When the serpent appeared to Eve and tempted her, the appeal was for Eve to no longer find her identity in the image of God and serving him. Instead, the appeal was to gain independence from God and gain our own identity and purpose.  We wanted to be masters of our destiny and obtain meaning and purpose apart from God.  Having abandoned God’s intended purpose—i.e., to reflect his image—we struck out on our own in a search for a new identity.  We wanted to be somebody, to gain recognition that would empower us and make us feel significant.

            During the time of Christ, the scribes and the Pharisees were the social influencers.  They were the ones people looked up to and were seen as the epitome of success.  They were respected and honored by the people, and they admired the crowds.  However, in his final days before his crucifixion, Christ zeros in on these so-called religious leaders.  In this chapter, he confronts them with their hypocrisy. Instead of being motivated to honor God, they desired to gain notoriety with the people. However, not only does he confront their moral and spiritual bankruptcy, but he also confronts the people who follow them.  He seeks to reorient their perspective of who they were following and why.   Instead of following God and his law, they had become enamored with people in God’s kingdom.  Greatness is not achieved by recognition by people but by following Christ and becoming his servant who ministers to others.  Humility rather than recognition is the mark of authentic discipleship. 

            In the response of Jesus, we see two essential principles that point us in a different direction and a different attitude.  First, greatness is achieved by living in obedience to God rather than gaining recognition of men.  To be great, we must become followers of Christ and his Word.  Instead of looking to people and social influences (or even religious social influencers) for guidance in life, we are to look solely to God and his word.  We are to judge our teachers not by how popular and charismatic they are but by how much they point people to Christ. 

            Second, greatness is achieved by living the life of a servant.  Being a servant is the opposite of our culture of empowerment.  A servant sets aside their rights to serve others. Instead of seeking notoriety in which we gain the recognition of others, we are to serve others and desire to influence them for Christ. This is not to say we should not try to be influential and that any recognition by others is wrong.  The point of Christ is the question of motivation.  What motivates us and drives us?  Is it to gain recognition, or is it to serve Christ by serving others?  Are we driven by the affirmation of people or the affirmation of God? The genuine follower of Christ is the servant with nothing to prove and is not concerned about his “rights.”  He can serve others self-sacrificially because he finds value and worth in his relationship with God.  We discover genuine greatness in God’s kingdom when that becomes our focus. 

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