What is human greatness to you? What sort of definition comes to your mind when you think of someone being “great”?
Some might think of personality, intellect, wealth or physical prowess as something that sets someone in the realm of the “great.” Obvious and publicized accomplishments that make one’s name widely recognized would surely be markers of greatness. Alexander the Great conquered all the known world by the age of 33. Thomas Edison held over 1,000 patents for his many inventions in the course of his life. Dictators, presidents and prime ministers would all have to be considered great, whether from the positive or the negative impact they have had on their nations.
Webster’s New Century Dictionary defines “great” this way, “of much more than ordinary size, extent, etc; much above the average; intense; eminent; most important.” It is the accepted definition in the world today. Many crave to be perceived as “great” in this way. Would this, however, be the way that God defines greatness?
Christ contrasted this world’s view of greatness with His own. “But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them’” (Mark 10:42). The worldly greatness that Christ points to is one where a self-perceived superior exercises authority over those they perceive as their inferiors. And in that attitude, they or anyone can seek to make themselves great. “Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant” (Mark 10:43). What a contrast God’s view is with the world’s. The true mark of greatness is that of humble service to others. Don’t let that skew your thinking, however. It has nothing to do with being a human door mat. It has everything to do with following Christ’s own example of humbly serving others for the specific purpose of bettering their relationship with our Father. Helping to make God great in someone else’s life is where personal greatness begins for us from God’s perspective.
This kind of greatness was God’s intention for Israel as they came out of Egypt. “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine” (Exodus 19:5). True greatness is not based on forging our own selfish way in life, but on hearing and obeying God’s voice. That is what makes us special or great in His eyes. This is true individually or as a nation. “And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel” (Exodus 19:6). Israel was to become a nation of God’s servants that could make God great again, or for the first time, in the eyes of other nations.
True greatness is marked by service to others for the ultimate purpose of helping to reconcile them to the very author of true greatness – God.