So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:27-28)
Last week, we read Mark 10:35-45 where James and John pulled Jesus aside to ask for the places of highest honor in the Kingdom of Heaven. I’ve always been fascinated by this passage, because I think most modern readers expect Jesus to harshly rebuke the disciples’ desire for greatness. But that’s not what Jesus does.
Look at Mark 10:43. Following the disciples’ shameless request, Jesus doesn’t say, “How dare you ask to sit by my side in glory.” Instead, Jesus starts his reply with, “whoever wants to become great among you.” Jesus goes on to redefine what greatness truly is (which we’ll look at closely next week), but it’s important to pause here and note that Jesus never condemns the disciples’ ambition or desire for greatness.
Why? I think it’s because God is the one who put the desire for greatness in our hearts. Think back to the Garden of Eden. When God created humankind, he called them to “fill the earth and subdue it,” to “rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” This is regal language. These are the duties of kings and queens. From the beginning of time, God has granted humankind great power and responsibility. Our desire for greatness and power isn’t inherently evil. It is a good thing hardwired into our DNA, placed there by the Creator himself.
Now, of course, sin has greatly distorted our desire for greatness. In the world of work, sin causes us to crave power for our own fame and fortune, and in the worst cases, as a means of exploiting employees, customers, and vendors. Those abuses of power are clearly antithetical to the teachings of Jesus.
So while Jesus’s doesn’t condemn James and John’s desire for power, he does go on to radically redefine what true greatness and power is, and in doing so, offers tremendous insight for our own ambitions as we work. It is that redefinition of greatness that we will look at next week.