Perhaps now more than ever in the 21st century world that we live in, our society focuses on a transactional way of doing things. I give you this, you give me that. I pay you this, I receive that.
If we’re not careful, that can affect the way we live our lives as Christians as well. I think a big problem in today’s church is we view God, and the church, very much from the same transactional standpoint.
How many of us show up to church thinking “What can I get out of this?” Or maybe even more prominently, how many of us approach our prayer life with God as “What can God do for me?” Our prayers often turn into laundry lists of our wishes and desires, treating God like he’s the magic genie from Aladdin without really pausing to recognize who we’re talking to and the respect that should come with that.
There’s nothing wrong with bringing your requests to God or trying to see what you can get out of a church service that could be applied to your life. However, there is a problem when we approach our Christian lives looking to be served rather than looking to serve. Too often we approach our church lives and prayer lives as “consumers” rather than “active participants.”
A good example of what I’m talking about can be found in the gospel of Mark. Jesus had performed many miracles, had taken James, John and Peter to the mountain to witness the transfiguration and had spoken of his coming death and resurrection.
With all of the signs that had been performed, James and John recognized that Jesus was obviously special and that he was going to be glorified in some way, possibly even as a political ruler, and they wanted to take advantage of that. They approached Jesus in Mark 10:35 and went on to ask Jesus to let one of them sit on his right and the other at his left in his glory, in whatever form that would be.
Essentially, James and John wanted to elevate their status and take hold of a special place with Jesus. After dealing with those requests from James and John, Jesus calls the disciples to gather around in Mark 10:42-45:
Jesus called them together and said “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, 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 refers to the traditional human viewpoint of rule and points out how he expects the complete opposite from them. He points out that even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.
If we’re not careful, many of us can often be like James and John, who were looking for Jesus to elevate them and were concerned about their own clout rather than doing what the Lord has called them to do.
A practical application of this text from my viewpoint is to remember that Jesus teaches us to have a servant’s heart and to make sure that you put others before yourself. Try to adopt this lifestyle in your own life and see what a difference it can make in your walk with the Lord.