Originally posted Sept.24, 2012, at Discovering Discipleship. Republished with permission of the author.
As someone has said, “Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings.” Striving to be number one can be healthy as long as we are able to keep it in perspective. Winning isn’t everything. Being the best isn’t everything, neither is it the only thing. The disciples apparently quickly realized that they were misdirected in their notions. But notice that Jesus didn’t scold the disciples for wanting to be great. What he tried to do was help them put it into perspective. He tells them to redirect it. He points to discipleship. He points to the Christian life of servanthood and the role it plays in our own priorities. (From a sermon by Pastor Randy O’Donnell)
Years ago I knew a young person who, to my exasperation, would not respond to either reward or punishment. It was during those years when discipline seemed my responsibility — if he “succeeded” I wanted to affirm him, and if he was irresponsible I felt that some sort of consequence needed to be applied. One day (again, to my consternation) he said calmly: “Nothing you can give or take away will make any difference. I am internally motivated.”
Wow! I learned quickly that internal motivation is powerful. Whatever (or whomever) you have at the core of your heart exerts huge influence over your choices. Think about the way young love often eclipses all other relationships. Or how prejudice excludes any possibility of connection with a stranger.
Jesus taught that the love of others unleashes our capacity to do the “best” or be the “best” in whatever role we have. Of course it is our responsibility to care for whatever skill or position we have — but not primarily for what it will “get” us. As Pastor Randy said, we don’t accumulate brownie points by doing things Jesus teaches. And we are not punished when we don’t comply. Rather, through Christ, the love of God is imprinted upon our heart — and we become empowered from within to serve others in ways we had never imagined.
Love for God and for others is the root of Christian discipleship. As we listen to Christ, words of direction are spoken that activate our gifts and abilities in miraculous ways.
Find a link to Pamela Czarnota’s congregation’s blog Discovering Discipleship at Lutheran Blogs.