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Two Qualifiers for being the Greatest

Think for a moment about who you consider to be the greatest person in the following categories:

  • The greatest singer
  • The greatest musician
  • Who is the greatest teacher?
  • The greatest football player
  • The greatest actor/actress
  • Who is the greatest pastor?
  • The greatest boss/leader

Being the greatest is a matter of opinion

Most of us can easily identify a person in each of these categories. My opinion about the greatest one in each of them could be very different from yours. It would all be based on the qualifiers you have in your mind that would make someone the “greatest.” For example, if I said that the greatest singer is Josh Groban but you do not like his style of music then you would greatly disagree. Or if I said the greatest musician is Kenny G, but you prefer piano music, then you’d might list someone else as the greatest musician, even if you thought Kenny G was the best soprano saxophone player. Since you probably had different teachers than I did, it is very likely we would not agree on the greatest teacher. So if we are going to answer the question, “Who is the greatest?” then we need to have some qualifiers upon which we will identify who is the greatest. Jesus gives us those qualifiers in Mark 9:35 and the list is very short – just 2.

Qualifiers from the world for being the greatest

Jesus said in Mark 9:35 that the greatest is the last of all and servant of all. In our world today, these are probably not the qualifiers most of us would assign to the greatest person. Instead we identify them based off appearances, accomplishments, successes, possessions, abilities, personality, etc. In the world’s point of view, a great person is easily identified because that person doesn’t stop pointing out his own greatness. The two biggest words in his/her vocabulary is “I” and “me.” Most of the people the world would identify as the greatest are full of pride. He is egotistical and self-made. He’s the person sung about in Frank Sinatra’s “I Did It My Way.” He doesn’t need anyone else’s help or guidance. He’s a self-made man.

Jesus’ 2 Qualifiers for being the greatest

But Jesus identifies the greatest in a very different way and pride has no room at all in the life of a person that Jesus considers to be the greatest. Instead, Jesus says the person that is greatest is last – or in other words, it is the man or woman who is humble. C.S. Lewis said, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” So what does the humble man or woman look like? Here are 11 traits of a humble person.

A humble person is not boastful

Even if he or she earned “boasting rights”, you won’t find the humble person bragging. When he does speak about his accomplishments, he will point out the people that helped him get there so that the spotlight is on them rather than himself. He will also give God the glory and credit.

A humble person is a good listener

It has been said that God gave us 2 ears and 1 mouth so that we could listen twice as much as we speak. The humble man or woman is an active listener with a genuine concern for what the other person is saying and/or feeling. He or she is not more concerned with getting their point of view across, but truly wants to know what the other person is thinking and feeling.

A humble person Follows God’s lead

The humble person isn’t leading God along in her own personal plans for her life, rather she allows herself to be led by God and obediently follows His plan for her life. He looks for where God is at work around him and then joins God in His activities as God reveals them to him.

A humble person Doesn’t Give Up

Humble people are able to keep trying no matter how many times they fall down. Prideful people fall and they will get up but then give up out our fear of falling again and people witnessing it. Humble people understand that everyone makes mistakes but they acknowledge it, learn from it and then get up and try again. When inventing the light bulb, Thomas Edison had many failures before finding success. He said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” He was also quoted as saying, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

A humble person has Self-Control

It takes much more effort and control to live humbly than with egotistical pride. Living humbly takes a consistent effort to choose humility over pride. People who “fly off” in a fit of rage are not humble people. Instead, those people allow their pride to control them and when pride is in control, the person has no control. But when humility wins the battle, the person has control of his words and actions.

A humble person is a leader

Vince Lombardi said, “Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.” But there is a difference between a humble leader and a prideful one. Prideful leaders are, in fact, not leaders at all – they are bosses. They boss people around, telling them what to do and enforcing their will on others. Most often what they makes others do, they refuse to do themselves. The humble leader, however, works in the trenches alongside of those whom he leads – whether the task is dirty and hard or fun and exciting. When the hard, difficult task needs to be done, you’ll find the humble leader doing it himself rather than getting others to do it while he goes out for a round of golf.

A humble person willingly serves others

Not only did Jesus say the greatest person is humble, but that they also servant of all. Jesus demonstrated this by washing the disciples feet. If you know anything at all about Jewish customs, then you know that foot washing was the task of the lowest of the low ranking servants. Yet the Son of God, King of kings humbly knelt down and wash the feet of His disciples. In Jesus’ qualifiers for the title of “Greatest”, we should follow His example and be willing to serve others in whatever capacity is needed. The humble person doesn’t care if serving others receives recognition. They aren’t doing it for what they can get out of it, but for what they can give to someone else. It brings him joy to serve others so there is no grumbling or complaining. He sees serving others and an opportunity rather than duty or obligation.

A humble person loves others

Let’s face it – not everyone is easy to love. But Jesus said the 2nd greatest commandment was to love others as we love ourselves. The humble person loves others regardless of who they are, where they come from, what color of skin they have, what they smell like, what their mental capacity is, what their annual income is, what their employment position is – they simple love others. Prideful people love people who fit into their criteria as loveable. Humble people recognize that because of sin, none of us a loveable, but God chose to love us even while we were yet sinners and sent Jesus to die for us as the payment for our sin. They then share the love of Christ with others – even with the most “unlovable.”

A humble person is tenderhearted and forgiving

Tenderhearted is the capacity to be kind and gentle. It doesn’t mean he allows others to “walk over” him or take advantage of him, but that even when he needs to be firm it is done with kindness and gentleness. The humble person is also willing to forgive others because she knows that she has made her own share of mistakes and is grateful of Christ’s forgiveness towards her so she is then able to extend forgiveness towards others.

A humble person is correctable

People who are full of pride do not accept correction from others. They will pass the blame elsewhere or have a million excuses but they won’t accept their own fault. They are defensive and argumentative as they try to convince others they are right. The humble person is teachable. When he recognizes a mistake or someone points out a mistake, his response is, “teach me.” He has a genuine desire to learn from his mistakes and knows that as he learns, he’s another step closer to success.

A humble person is a Christ follower

Christ follower. Humility is impossible if we are not following Christ because it is only then that we recognize God’s greatness and realize just how “fallen” and “broken” we are. The more we know about God, the more we are able to realize just how sinful we are. As a follower of Christ, we strive to be like Him so that all we do and say points people to Him – not to our self.

Jesus’ definition of the Greatest Reverses the World’s definition

Jesus’ teaching about who is the greatest reverses the world’s concept of being the greatest. He taught that being “first” did not come through aggressiveness and privilege, but through a humble heart and a willingness to love and serve others. But He didn’t just teach it with words, he modeled it in his life. Based on Jesus’ value system, would He say you are one of the greatest?

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