For most of us on this Earth, to be great, popular, highly esteemed, and regarded as worthy to be above others is our fondest innate desire. Many highly educated and well-respected individuals have taught various ways to accomplish this (for a fee), along with a multitude of other vain conditions. Every year, billions of dollars are spent to try to make ourselves to be great and glorious.
The greatest minds of philosophers, psychiatrists, scientists, etc., are not capable, even collectively, of producing a solution that will effectively elevate the status of respect for all of us in life. Some leaders of various countries have gone so far as to use brute force to make their citizens treat them as great leaders, and yet, in the final analysis, they don’t achieve true success.
In God’s Eyes We’re Only as Great as the Dust of the Earth
But God desires for us to go contrary to man’s way of thinking. In Genesis 3:19, He shows us just how ‘great’ He actually considers us to be: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (emphasis added). God does have high regard for us as being created in His image, but in our current, sinful state, He can only treat us like what we really are—nothing more than dust.
We might just shrug this off, thinking that we are not out solely to please God; we just desire to be ‘somebody’ in this world. But how can this be achieved in a world where the standard of superiority is always fluid? The very thing considered to be great and outstanding in one part of the world might be insulting in another. At one point in history, as a small example, a woman had to have a pale complexion to be considered beautiful, yet, later on, this attitude changed to thinking that a woman of great beauty should be as highly tanned as a bronze pillar!
Some are regarded lofty and ideal individuals if they are accomplished orators, while others are held in high esteem for their silence and reserved nature. And consider this as well: how can we achieve superiority when everyone else is trying to be superior also?
This is one reason why He sent His Son to Earth to provide a way and an example for us to follow. Throughout His time here on Earth, Jesus demonstrated how man’s expectations for greatness are inappropriate.
Jesus Had No Intention to be Great
Jesus did not come to Earth the first time to be great or to be worshipped—He came here to serve. “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).
He came to put into practice what had been declared in His Word. Who can live by what someone says if that person is unwilling to follow his own teaching? Not until after Jesus had humbled Himself as a servant did “God also…highly [exalt] Him, and [give] Him a name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9).
Consider this short list of occasions where God’s Son humbled Himself to the level of not just a lowly servant, but even a despised outcast as well.
- He was born in the manner of a common person, not like a child of royalty.
- His first bed was a feeding trough, not a plush cradle in a magnificent palace.
- He was led into the capital on a donkey—a lowly means of transport for a king.
- He was considered to be out of His mind, to the point that His own family wanted to have Him put away.
- He was accused of crimes He had not committed, then crucified in place of a murderer.
- He was hated and ultimately killed by secular and religious leaders.
- He ended up in the most degraded position of any human being in history.
He trusted in His Father, who knew what was best for Him in every situation and circumstance that He would encounter. He looked forward to whatever God had prepared for Him next. He knew God’s way would always be the best way.
Humility is the Only Way to be Great With God
Is it possible for us to be great, therefore, if not in this present frail and short life, but for eternity? It can only happen if we are first willing to humble ourselves to the position of a servant. Jesus said, “…but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For [which] is greater, he that sitteth at meat [reclines at a table], or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth” (Luke 22:26-27 emphasis added).
The Apostle Paul laid out the method God wants us to follow to be great: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3-5).