Who doesn’t want to be great at work?
Whether it is expressed through recognition, accomplishment or even the private sense of knowing you did a good job, we all desire greatness.
The disciples also desired greatness. They followed Jesus because they believed in him (Mark 10:28). Yet they still had a misguided idea of the nature of greatness, and at one point even argued about who would be the greatest. Then Jesus stepped in:
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.” – Mark 10:42-45
There are some incredible insights here into the meaning and source of greatness.
First, Jesus did not rebuke the disciples’ desire for greatness. He simply reframed their concept of what greatness is and how to achieve it. Simply put, you become great by serving others.
Next, Jesus gives us the basis for serving others. We can serve because Jesus served. The Son of God served us, even to the point of death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8). If that is true, then there is nothing too low for us. There is nothing that we are too highly qualified to do.
We also know that we are enabled to serve because Jesus served. His death on the cross makes us right with God again (2 Corinthians 5:17-18). In Jesus we can serve out of a right motivation, a desire to please God, and thus serve and achieve greatness in a meaningful and lasting way.
Now that we have a basis for understanding greatness through serving, how can we apply this to our work?
- Look for practical ways to serve where you are every day. Push in the chairs after a meeting when everyone rushes out of the room. Bring coffee to a stressed out coworker. It doesn’t take much investment, but it makes a difference.
- Serve by doing your work with excellence. Your work always affects someone else – a manager, subordinate, vendor or customer. Serve them by doing your work well.
- Factor serving into your job choices. Tim Keller frames the question like this: “how, with my existing abilities and opportunities, can I be of greatest service to other people, knowing what I do of God’s will and of human need?” There is no cut and dry answer to this question. There are too many variables to quantify whether any given job will have more impact on others. But in asking the question we are opening ourselves up for God to best position us for his purposes. And then we can step into any job with confidence that he is going to maximize our ability to serve there.
The greatness we desire at work is found in Jesus. If we serve like him, and in him, then we will achieve greatness in our work for him.