Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank. (Proverbs 22:29)
Over the past few weeks, we have been looking at Jesus’ exchange with the disciples in Mark 10:35-45. In this passage, James and John ask if they can sit in the places of greatest honor alongside Jesus in the Kingdom of Heaven. If our inherent desire for greatness and power was sinful, this would have been the perfect time for Jesus to say so. But he didn’t. Jesus didn’t diminish the disciples’ desire greatness. He simply redirected it.
Look back at Jesus’s response to James in John, recorded in Mark 10:43-45: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus is essentially saying, “You want to sit at the right hand of the King of kings? You want real power and true greatness? Stop focusing on being seen as great. Become a servant. Spend your power in service of others.” Of course, soon after this discourse with the disciples, Jesus would live out the ultimate demonstration of this principle at Calvary. The King of kings—the perfect human being—would voluntarily empty himself of all his physical power in order to redeem the human race.
So, what does this passage mean for us as we seek to master the work we believe the Lord has called us to? All throughout Scripture, God promises power to those who are masterful at their crafts. Today’s Scripture reading from Proverbs 22:29 is a great example. It says, “Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank.”
When you and I build great businesses, design an elegant new process at work, create beautiful art, and get world-class at the work we have been called to do, we will “not serve before officials of low rank.” We will “serve before kings” and be granted some degree of power, influence, and “greatness.” The question is, how will we respond to this truth?
I see three possible responses. First, out of fear of becoming power-mongering egomaniacs, we can become less ambitious for our work, refusing to accept the God-given gift of power that comes with mastery. Second, we can ambitiously pursue power as a means of serving ourselves. Or third, we can follow Jesus’s prescription for true greatness, gratefully accepting the power and influence that comes with excellent work, so that we, like Jesus, can pour that power out in service of others.