Power to Serve
By: Jim O'Brien
A psychological experiment involved executives in the corporate world who were given a choice between receiving a pay raise or a job promotion. The promotion included a prestigious title and an office with their name and title on the door but no increase in pay. With few exceptions both men and women took the promotion. Researchers concluded that power is a greater motivator than money.
Dale Carnegie wrote that the desire for power is the single most significant drive of human beings. He may have been right-but that leaves us with a dilemma. Throughout history the most despised men the world has known have chosen power at all costs, but conversely, those who sacrificed power in order to serve are the most revered.
George Washington is called the "Father of Our Country" because he gave up power not once but at least three times-at the end of the revolutionary war when he resigned his military commission and returned to Mount Vernon, when he refused to be king so the country could have an elected president and again at the end of his second term when he refused to seek a third.
The greatest tribute to Washington may have come from his biggest adversary, King George III, just after the Revolutionary War. The king asked his American painter, Benjamin West, what Washington would do after winning independence. West replied, "They say he will return to his farm."
"If he does that," the incredulous monarch said, "he will be the greatest man in the world."
Ironically, churches may be facing just such a dilemma. Old mainstream denominations are dead or dying and the people leaving are saying they are tired of politics. Members are offended by religious leaders who seek control more than service. Some prefer titles with a name on the door.
Even Jesus had to confront this problem with his closest disciples. When the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus to ask a favor, it was an embarrassing and blunt attempt to gain power. "Grant that one of these two sons of mine can sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom" (Matthew 20:21).
Now that's bold! It's also not Christian. Yet it came from two of the disciples of Jesus.
Why would they come to Jesus with this request? Well, the simple answer is that they knew Jesus had power and he could give it to whomever he chose. When he sent out his disciples on a preaching tour "he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases" (Luke 9:1). Imagine what it would be like to command a spirit being-knowing he must obey your word-or to cure a disease by the mere sound of your voice. The disciples' first taste of such power must have been overwhelming. Did witnesses to these miracles bow at the feet of the disciples as some did to Jesus?
When the disciples of Jesus began thinking of power before service he took them apart from the crowd and warned them, "You know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them." Adam Clarke translates "They tyrannized and exercised arbitrary power over the people."
Jesus continues, "But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:25-28).
The 6,000 years of man's history on this earth have shown clear and
consistent examples of man's desire to exercise power over other men. But there
is one shining example that's different. Jesus Christ emptied himself of power
so he could serve, even to the point of giving his life. And the precious few
who follow his example have made a significant difference in this world. Such
people are worthy to receive power to serve in the world to come.
Until next time,
Pastor, Church of God Cincinnati
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