Antidote to Worldly Seductions

It is easy for us, in our hindsight, to desire telling the disciples in our scriptures this morning: “here is your sign”.

The twelve disciples are walking with, but following behind, Jesus. These disciples are bickering and arguing amongst themselves. It seems these disciples thought Jesus did not know.

I can imagine the conversation now.

One disciple states: “Well, I am clearly the greatest because I am the smartest”.

Peter responds: “Oh? Clearly I am the greatest, because I am Peter… the Rock (the church will be built upon).”

Another disciple chimes in: “Hmm, clearly I am the greatest because I walked away from the family business, giving up everything to follow”.

How often do we bear witness to this bickering in our world?
How often do we participate in this bickering?

The reality is that we all strive to be the best or greatest at something. 

  • Perhaps, we are striving to be the best in our (career) field or at least our office.
  • Perhaps, we are striving to be the best son/daughter or at least our parent’s favorite.
  • Perhaps, we are striving to be the teacher’s pet.
  • Perhaps, we are striving to have the largest collection of big boy/girl toys (wealth).

We all have this internal drive.

It might be easy to deny that all people have the drive to be the best or greatest. In the adult study this morning, I claimed that we all have the desire to be the best at something…even if it is simply being the best at being grumpy.

It is true. We NEVER want to hear that we are not the smartest, bravest, wisest, or greatest.

As a young girl, my family had close family friends with a daughter close to my age. Although we were good friends, I always HATED when my aunts and uncles (and cousins) were present. Why? Here was the conversation.

  • Melinda will never be as pretty as her.
  • Melinda will never be as smart as her.
  • Melinda will never be as talented as her.

The conversation was always about how I would not be as great as her. Honestly, it hurt but it also motivated me to find my own path that might allow me to be better than her at something.

We all want the title of being the best or greatest.

Thus, it is easy for us to consider the disciples and say “here is your sign”.

BUT, let us be honest.
We would have been in the bickering match attempting to advance our own ranking.

It is human nature, although not a desirable part of it.

Jesus regularly attempts to teach us about how we are called to live.
We are called to avoid the worldly seductions of prestige and ego, because:

  • What good is it for you to be the smartest, if you do not use it to help others?
  • What good is it for you to be the bravest, if you do not defend those in need?
  • What good is it for you to be the wealthiest, if you do not help those in need?

Jesus’ teaching seems a paradox to our human nature and the wisdom of our world.
Jesus’ teaching is that the greatest is the least and the greatest is a servant to all.

Therefore, what if we lived our lives in such a way that we sought to be the best helper/servant?

I think and imagine that our world would be much different if that was our competition.

Jesus takes a child into his arms and teaches the twelve disciples that they (we) must become like children to more fully know him and to enter into the kingdom.

I wonder if Jesus’ teaching is rooted in the ambition of younger children, which is often an eagerness to help, to serve, and to love.

What if we had that same eagerness to love and to serve all people in need?

I think that is the heart of our gospel.
The worldly seduction is prestige to boost our own egos, but the antidote is the ambition to improve ourselves through loving and eagerly serving those in need.

No matter how great we become our greatness is only as great as our service to the other.

I pray that during this week and beyond, God through the Holy Spirit will open our hearts and minds to ponder how we seek to boost our prestige and ego instead of the child-like eagerness to help, to serve, and to love all people.
As this can only happen through the Holy Spirit: Come, Spirit, Come! Amen.


Scriptures were James 3:13 – 4:3, 7-8a and Mark 9: 30-37.
Originally preached 23 September 2018.

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