Seeking the “Advantage” Doesn’t Work
Recently I was doing lectio divina on Matt 18:1-5 where Jesus sets a child in the middle of the disciples who had been squabbling over who would be the greatest and tells them, “Be like this!” (Mark 9:33-37). I liked how instead of chiding them for their egotism, Jesus distracts them with the absurd idea of becoming like children, who were very lowly creatures in that culture, quasi-servants, in many cases. Why should these guys – gatekeepers to the latest and greatest prophet (Mt 17:24) – be like humble children?
This illustrated what Jesus said in a similar situation: Don’t seek your own advantage; seek to serve (Matt 20:20-28). I felt challenged by this. Lately, I’ve felt passed over, disregarded, dumped on – in other words, not getting all the wonderful credit I deserve. So I’ve been grumpy and have… at times… “sought the advantage”: Look where I’m going to speak! Yes, I know the answer to that question.
Seek to serve. That means taking time to answer emails with love and concern. That means listening well. That means working on projects where my name appears practically hidden in a footnote in 8 point type. As I learned long ago, everything is about relationship: interaction with God in this moment. That’s the best life there is: daily companionship with God.
So I closed my eyes and reread the passage. I found myself in the passage, but not where I expected. Based on what I just told you about my attitude, I should have found myself in the role of the uppity disciples. But instead I was the child! (I think this happened partly because I’d read NT Wright saying the child was probably a girl, based on years of research on certain words.)
When I found myself in her place, I turned to Jesus and said, “I really don’t deserve to be her. I gripe. I push myself forward. I’m like those guys” (pointing to the disciples). Jesus laughed and said to me, “OK, but just for today you get to be ‘the child’ in this passage.” And he put me on his knee!
In those timeless kairos moments with God, I got to “try on” or “put on” goodness and have it fit for a few moments. I’m not sure I played the part well, but I have to say it felt good. Since then it’s been a lot easier to “seek to serve” and let go of “seeking the advantage.” I don’t have to “make something happen,” but simply follow along behind Jesus through life. All those verses about how obedience works are true. It brings about real life, and it feels really good.
Grace and peace,
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