April 10th, 2016
Matthew 20:17-28 (see also Mk 10:32-45; Lk 18:31-34; 22:24-30)
Auxiliary Texts: 2 Samuel 5:9-12; Philippians 2:1-8
Call to Worship from: Psalm 112
Service Orientation: To be a Jesus follower means you will be willing to use whatever resources, power, status, and authority God has given you for the welfare and benefit of others. Not for just self-advancement.
Bible Memory Verses for the Week: Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” — Matthew 20:26-28
- Twice in Matthew we have witnessed God’s own combining of the Messiah being a Conquering King and a Suffering Servant (Mt 3:17; 17:5) “This my Son, whom I love; (Ps 2 – Conquering King) with him I am well pleased (Isa 42 – Suffering Servant).” Jesus Himself combines them in this text.
- Jesus had been emphasizing that in his kingdom greatness is measured by the yardstick of humility (18:1-4), that salvation belongs to the little ones and to those who have become like them (19:14), that trusting fully in the Lord, denying oneself, and giving instead of getting, is the mark of his true followers (19:21). He had taught that eagerness to labor for the Master without always asking, “What is there in it for me?” is the characteristic of the last who in the final days are going to be first (19:30; 20:16). (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary–Matthew, 744) (red bold emphasis – Pastor Keith)
- (vss. 18-19) Because Jesus often spoke in parables, the disciples may have thought that his words on death and resurrection were another parable they weren’t astute enough to understand. The Gospel records of Jesus’ predictions of his death and resurrection show that these events were God’s plan from the beginning and not accidents. The prophets had predicted what would happen to Jesus (see, for example, Ps 22:6-8; Isa 50:6; 52:13-53:12). (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary–Matthew, 393)
- (v. 20) The three of them may have been trying to capitalize on their family relationship to Jesus. By comparing the gospel accounts of the women who stood vigil near the cross, it becomes evident that the mother of James and John was named Salome and was a sister of Mary, the Mother of Jesus (see Mt 27:56; Mk 15:40; Jn 19:25), making her Jesus’ aunt and James and John His first cousins. In addition to relying on their relationship as Jesus’ cousins, the brothers perhaps also thought to play on Jesus’ affection for his mother by having her sister approach Him for the favor. (John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Matthew 16-23, 236)
- (v. 21) Jesus had already promised “thrones” (although the disciples may have misconstrued the meaning) when he said that the twelve disciples would “sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (19:28 NIV). In ancient royal courts, the persons chosen to sit at the right and left hands of the king were the most powerful people in the kingdom. James and John’s mother wanted her sons to sit beside Christ in his glory–these were the most honored places in the kingdom; they understood that Jesus would be glorified (James and John had seen the Transfiguration, although they had not told anyone about it, as Jesus had commanded); and they approached him as loyal subjects to their king. However, until after the Resurrection, none of them fully understood that Jesus’ kingdom was not of this world; it was not centered in palaces and thrones, but in the hearts and lives of his followers. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary–Matthew, 395)
- (v. 21) When the other disciples heard about Salome’s request, their indignation knew no bounds. They felt that James and John had taken unfair advantage of their kinship to Jesus. They all aspired to the seats of supreme power in the kingdom, which they still imagined was just around the corner. They all had their eyes on self. How the Lord’s heart must have been pained! He had just been setting the cross before them when, as Matthew recorded it, all this fuss broke out over positions in the kingdom. The disciples must not have been listening to a word He said. (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels–Matthew, 394)
- (v. 21) He uses the plural, which means that either he is now speaking to James and John (cf. Mk 10:38), or to these two and their mother. Since the two apostles were in full agreement with their mother, so that they themselves had actively supported her in this request, making it also their own petition, and since these two were most directly concerned with its gratification, it is understandable that Jesus in his answer should especially have them in mind. (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary–Matthew, 746)
- (v. 21) Their open bid for leadership now is therefore a direct challenge to Peter’s leading position: if James and John are at Jesus’ right and left, where will Peter’s be? It may be that the brothers have detected in 19:30 a rebuke of Peter’s assumption of a leading role in the kingdom of heaven…and regard this as a good opportunity to press their counterclaim. Peter’s gaffe in 16:22 and Jesus’ sharp rebuke of him in 16:23 may also have raised their hopes of supplanting him. At any rate, the egalitarian picture of the “twelve thrones” in 19:28 is now challenged by the brothers’ concern for personal status. (R.T. France, The New International Commentary of the New Testament–The Gospel of Matthew, 758)
- (v. 22) Jesus responded to her request without rebuke. His words read like a gracious correction. “You do not know what you are asking,” he said. How often do our prayers evoke the same response from God? We hardly ever know what we’re asking. Fortunately, God isn’t bound by our requests. He lovingly edits our prayers. So, ask what you will today for yourself and for others, but remember that God will always do what is best. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary–Matthew, 394)
- (v. 22) In the OT this cup is the frequent, graphic expression of God’s wrath that rebellious sinners must drink. (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Matthew–All Authority in Heaven and on Earth, 575)
- (v. 22) There is no one cup for Christians to drink. That cup may be drunk in one great moment; that cup may be drunk throughout a lifetime of Christian living. To drink the cup simply means to follow Christ wherever he may lead, and to be like him in any situation life may bring. (William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible–Volume Two, 269)
- (v. 22) The deaths of James and John were dramatic answers to Jesus’ question, “Can you drink my cup?” James was first among the apostolic martyrs. His brother outlasted them all and died an exile. Each of their “cups” had its own difficulty. James’ cup came with shocking suddenness; John’s with wearisome waiting. Each drank from Jesus’ cup in his time. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary–Matthew, 396)
- (v. 23) It would not be on the basis of favoritism or ambition that those honors would be bestowed, but on the basis of the Father’s sovereign choice. Personal ambition is not a factor in the eternal, sovereign plan of God. It is therefore not only sinful but a foolish and useless waste of effort. (John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Matthew 16-23, 238)
(v. 26) Servant is from diakonos, from which the term deacon is derived. The original Greek word was purely secular, referring to a person who did menial labor, such as house cleaning or serving tables. It was not necessarily a term of dishonor but simply described as the lowest level of hired help, who needed little training or skill. But Christ elevated diakonos to a place of great significance, using it to describe His most faithful and favored disciples. (John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Matthew 16-23, 241)
- (v. 26) Matthew may very well be alluding to the “Servant” prophesied by Isaiah, the One who “bore the sin of many” (Isa 53:11-12). We need Him in the profoundest sense of the word; He doesn’t need us. (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition–Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 272)
(v. 28) We still use the word ransom today, usually talking about a hostage situation. Kidnappers demand a ransom of two million dollars for the release of the dignitary’s daughter or whatever. In the first century it simply referred to the price paid for the release of slaves. (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Matthew–All Authority in Heaven and on Earth, 576) That Jesus’ death is “in place of many” should not be taken as a deliberate contract to “a ransom for all” in 1 Tm 2:6 (cf., e.g., 2 Cor 5:14-15). The use of “many” derives from the Isa 53 background and sets up a contrast between the one who dies and many who benefit. (R.T. France, The New International Commentary of the New Testament–The Gospel of Matthew, 763) I do not believe for a second that this warning “just happens” to precede Matthew’s account of the incident that follows. Even as Jesus was revealing to His disciples that He was about to perform the ultimate act of servanthood, two of His disciples showed that servanthood was the last thing on their minds. It seems clear that Matthew juxtaposed these incidents to highlight Jesus’ servant heart. (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary–Matthew, 590)
The question to be answered is . . . Why does Jesus continue to beat into our hearts and heads that to be great in His kingdom means to suffer and sacrifice for the sake of others; just like Himself?
Answer: Because just like the disciples, even after the fourth or fifth time, we still don’t get it. Mostly because we don’t want to get it.
“Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve, you don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second law of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. ” — Martin Luther King
Leadership is influence, the ability of one person to influence others to follow his or her lead. (J. Oswald Sanders; Spiritual Leadership – Principles of Excellence for Every Believer, 27)
Jesus Christ clarified reality for His followers as they had never understood it before. A leader is a servant. The one charged with authority must lead in love. Jesus did, and He is still changing the world. Perhaps he had even influenced Mohandas Gandhi, who said:
Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by fear of punishment and the other by the art of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent. (Stu Weber; Four Pillars of a Man’s Heart, 72)
The Word for the Day is . . . Serve
Mercy to the full range of human needs is such an essential mark of being a Christian that it can be used as a test of true faith. Mercy is not optional or an addition to being a Christian. Rather, a life poured out in deeds of mercy is the inevitable sign of true faith. (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 35)
In Prv 14:31 and 19:17 we are told that to ignore the needs of a poor man is to sin against the Lord. So the poor and needy are a test. (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 39)
As a priority, we should give to needy Christians both intensively and extensively, until their need is gone. But we must also give generously to nonbelievers as part of our witness to the world. (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 80)
Neither the “liberal” approach (no conditions on aid to the needy) nor the “conservative” approach (only help the deserving poor) understand grace. Instead, our mercy ministry must help people freely, yet aim to bring their whole lives under the healing lordship of Christ. Mercy is kingdom endeavor. (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 227)
What does Matthew teach us about being great in the Kingdom of Heaven?:
I- To be great means to suffer and sacrifice for the sake of others . . . Just like Jesus with the cup of the cross. (Mt 20:17-23; see also: Ps 16:5; 23:5; 75:8; 116:7; Isa 51:17, 22; 53; Jer 25:25; Ez 23:32; Hab 2:16; Mt 5:10-12; 10:16-17, 38; 16:21-25; 17:12; 26:39, 42; Mk 8:31; 9:12; 10:32-40; Lk 9:22-24; 17:25; 18:31-34; 22:42; 24:26, 46; Acts 3:18; 5:41; 9:16; 17:3; 26:23; Rom 5:3; 2 Cor 4:10; Gal 3:13; 4:4-5; Eph 5:2; Phil 1:29; 2:17; 3:10; Col 1:14, 24; 2 Tm 1:8, 15; 2:4-6; Ti 2:14; Heb 2:9-10; 7:27; 8:8; 9:26-28; 10:8; 13:15-16; 1 Pt 1:6; 2:5, 9-21; 3:17; 4:12-13, 19; 2:18-25; 3:18-19; 5:9-10; 1 Jn 2:2-6; Rv 14:10; 16:19; 17:4; 18:6)
The title Jesus used for Himself, “the Son of Man,” highlights in a significant way His identification with us as men. As a man, He was able to sympathize with us in our suffering (Heb 4:15), and He was qualified as a sacrificial substitute for sinners (Rom 8:3). When He spoke of the cup that He would drink (Mt 20:22), He was speaking of drinking down the wrath of God in the place of sinners. Jesus willingly walked into the jaws of suffering and death on our behalf. (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition–Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 271)
“The place of suffering in service and of passion in mission is hardly ever taught today. But the greatest single secret of evangelistic or missionary effectiveness is the willingness to suffer and die. It may be a death to popularity (by faithfully preaching the unpopular biblical gospel), or to pride (by the use of modest methods in reliance on the Holy Spirit), or to racial and national prejudice (by identification with another culture), or to material comfort (by adopting a simple lifestyle). But the servant must suffer if he is to bring light to the nations, and the seed must die it if is to multiply.” (John R. W. Stott; The Cross of Christ, 322)
Suffering can prepare ordinary Christians for extraordinary service.
Without suffering obedience is meaningless.
Despite their discreditable motivation, it is to their credit that their faith accepted the fact of Christ’s coming Kingdom, but they utterly misconceived its nature, and refused to link the Kingdom with suffering. They had yet to learn that those who hope to be first in the Kingdom must suffer before they can reign. Have we mastered this lesson ourselves? (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 108)
Jesus Christ came not to be served but to die, to give his life. That sets him apart from the founder of every other major religion. Their purpose was to live and be an example; Jesus’ purpose was to die and be a sacrifice. (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 140)
Jesus called his followers to live the cross-life. “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mk 8:34). He flatly told his disciples, “If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mk 9:35). When Jesus immortalized the principle of the cross-life by washing the disciples’ feet, he added, “I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (Jn 13:15). The cross-life is the life of voluntary submission. The cross-life is the life of freely accepted servanthood. (Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 116)
To aspire to leadership in God’s kingdom requires us to be willing to pay. The toll of true leadership is heavy, and the more effective the leadership, the higher it goes. (J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, p. 115)
In the Discipline of service, the issue is not always how well you serve, for even the world serves well when it leads to profit. But the Christian serves with humility because it leads to Christlikeness. (Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 116)
In making such a self-centered request, they did not know what they were asking. To request positions of highest honor meant also to request deep suffering, for they could not have one without the other. Jesus had been teaching the concept of glory through suffering since 16:21-28, but the disciples still did not understand. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary–Matthew, 396)
The “cup” to which Jesus referred is the same “cup” that he would mention in his prayer in Gethsemane, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me” (26:39 NIV). It is the cup of suffering that he would have to drink in order to accomplish salvation for sinners. Jesus would not only endure horrible physical pain, but he would also bear the wrath of God’s punishment for sin, causing him to be abandoned by God for a time (27:46). (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary–Matthew, 396)
The apostle Paul learned that the way to great glory is through great affliction for Christ’s sake. Although he suffered extreme hardship, persecution, and suffering, he considered those things to be insignificant compared to what awaited him in heaven. He told the self-serving, pleasure-loving Corinthians, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor 4:17). It is those who are persecuted, “on account of Me” who Jesus said will have great reward in heaven (Mt 5:11-12). (John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Matthew 16-23, 237)
The cost of true greatness is humble, selfless, sacrificial service. The Christian who desires to be great and first in the kingdom is the one who is willing to serve in the hard place, the uncomfortable place, the lonely place, the demanding place, the place where he is not appreciated and may even be persecuted. Knowing that time is short and eternity long, he is willing to spend and be spent. He is willing to work for excellence without becoming proud, to withstand criticism without becoming bitter, to be misjudged without becoming defensive, and to withstand suffering without succumbing to self-pity. (John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Matthew 16-23, 243)
Only once in all the recorded words of Jesus did our Lord announce that He would provide an “example” for the disciples, and then He washed their feet (Jn 13:15). Only once in the rest of the NT does a writer offer an “example” (1 Pt 2:21), and that is an example of suffering. Serving and suffering are paired in the teaching and life of our Lord. One does not come without the other. And what servant is greater than the Lord? (J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 23)
Fatigue is the price of leadership. Mediocrity is the result of never getting tired. (J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 119)
We should strive not for honors, but to be faithful followers of Jesus, wherever he leads. The road heading for Jerusalem may have looked to the disciples like a royal highway, but Jesus’ royalty is signaled by a crown of thorns. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary–Matthew, 393)
To ask to reign with Jesus is to ask to suffer with him; and not only do they not know what they are asking for (cf. 10:37-39; Rom 8:17; 2 Tm 2:12; Rv 3:21), they have as yet no clear perceptions of Jesus’ sufferings. To ask for worldly wealth and much honor is often to ask for anxiety, temptation, disappointment, and envy; and in the spiritual arena to ask for great usefulness and reward is often to ask for great suffering (cf. 2 Cor 11:23-33; Col 1:24; Rv 1:9). (Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary–Vol. 8, 431)
As the prophet makes clear, Jesus’ sufferings went much deeper than the physical. The Messiah would endure inner sufferings far more devastating than the pain in His body. He had to suffer as a sinless Man for the offenses of sinful men who despised and rejected Him. He was, indeed, stricken even by His own heavenly Father in order that He could bear the penalty that fallen man deserved but could not survive. (John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Matthew 16-23, 226)
The surest mark of the true servant is willing sacrifice for the sake of others in the name of Christ. The sham servant avoids suffering, while the true servant accepts it. (John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Matthew 16-23, 241)
Now dear Christians, some of you pray night and day to be branches of the true Vine; you pray to be made all over in the image of Christ. If so, you must be like him in giving… “though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor” …Objection 1. “My money is my own.” Answer: Christ might have said, “my blood is my own, my life is my own” …then where should we have been? Objection 2. “The poor are undeserving.” Answer: Christ might have said, “They are wicked rebels…shall I lay down my life for these? I will give to the good angels.” But no, he left the ninety-nine, and came after the lost. He gave his blood for the undeserving. Objection 3. “The poor may abuse it.” Answer: Christ might have said the same; yea, with far greater truth. Christ knew that thousands would trample his blood under their feet; that most would despise it; that many would make it an excuse for sinning more; yet he gave his own blood. Oh, my dear Christians! If you would be like Christ, give much, give often, give freely, to the vile and poor, the thankless and the undeserving. Christ is glorious and happy and so will you be. It is not your money I want, but your happiness. Remember his own word, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (B.B. Warfield, The Person and Work of Christ, 574)
Christians must give sacrificially, until their lifestyle is lowered. However, giving must be in accord with calling and ministry opportunities. Also, every believer must be a steward of possessions so as not to become a burden and liability to his or her family. (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 67)
If your giving to the needy does not burden you or cut into your lifestyle in any way, you must give more! (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 75)
According to the NT, Christ’s blood was shed as a sacrifice (Rom 3:25; 5:9; Eph 1:7; Rv 1:5). Christ redeemed His people by means of a ransom; His death was the price that freed us from guilt and from enslavement to sin (Rom 3:24; Gal 4:4, 5; Col 1:14). In Christ’s death, God reconciled us to Himself, overcoming His own hostility that our sins provoked (Rom 5:10; 2 Cor 5:18, 19; Col 1:20-22). The Cross propitiated God. That is to say, it quenched His wrath against us by expiating our sins, and so removing them from His sight (Rom 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:10). The Cross had this effect because in His suffering Christ assumed our identity and endured the retributive judgment due to us, that is, “the curse of the law” (Gal 3:13). He suffered as our substitute, with the damning record of our transgressions nailed by God to His cross as the list of crimes for which He died (Col 2:14; cf. Mt 27:37; Isa 53:4-6; Lk 22:37). (Luder Whitlock, Jr., New Geneva Study Bible, 1772)
It was Kierkegaard who said, “The tyrant dies and his rule is over; the martyr dies and his rule begins.” (Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Jewish Literacy, 245)
There was to be a baptism of suffering in the chill waters of death. The tomb would come before the throne. There would be no crown without a cross. (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels–Matthew, 394)
The implication of the cumulative evidence is that Jesus explicitly referred to himself as Isaiah’s Suffering Servant and interpreted his own death in that light–an interpretation in which Matthew has followed his Lord (see on 3:17; 12:15-21). (Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary–Volume 8, 434)
It is significant that, when referring to Christ’s sufferings before and during His crucifixion, the NT always uses the plural (see 2 Cor 1:5; Phil 3:10; Heb 2:10; 1 Pt 1:11; 4:13). His pain was not one dimensional, but involved sufferings of many sorts. (John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Matthew 16-23, 225)
The self-denial of the ascetic is in a subtle way intense self-assertion. True Christian self-sacrifice signifies hardship, loss undergone, not for its own sake, but for Christ’s sake, and for truth’s sake, at a time when truth cannot be maintained without sacrifice. But the self-sacrifice of the ascetic is not of this kind. It is all endured for his own sake, for his own spiritual benefit and credit. He practices self-denial after the fashion of a miser, who is a total abstainer from all luxuries, and even grudges himself the necessaries of life because he has a passion for hoarding. Like the miser, he deems himself rich; yet both he and the miser are alike poor: the miser, because with all his wealth he cannot part with his coin in exchange for enjoyable commodities; the ascetic, because his coins, “good works,” so called, painful acts of abstinence, are counterfeit, and will not pass current in the kingdom of heaven. (A. B. Bruce; The Training of the Twelve, 279)
Perfect love is a kind of self-abandonment and self-sacrifice. Love requires us to die to ourselves and our own interests for the sake of the one we love. To love a person we must sacrifice ourselves to please him. Because of this high price love demands we become quite upset if love is not returned or the person we love does not pay us any attention. (Henry Scougal and Robert Leighton; God’s Abundant Life, 42)
I have known many unhappy men who believed that “strength” meant “control”. They believed that being the spiritual leader meant they were the spiritual dictator. They acted as though every decision that needs to be made was theirs to make, as though they were the order-giver, commander-in-chief, and head despot.
That, however, is not strength; it is actually a form of acute weakness. Men who believe that need to control every aspect of their family’s lives are filled with fear. They are afraid to let others succeed, they are afraid the world could get along just fine without them. At bottom, they are afraid to let God be God and are unwilling to live by faith in a sovereign Lord.
Several phrases often betray such men, demonstrating their lack of strength and glaring weakness.
Phrases such as: “Don’t talk back to me!” “Don’t question my authority!” “Do it because I said so.”
The problem with such phrases is that they simply demand rather than affirm the child and then explain what is wrong on the basis of a principle. Being strong does not mean:
* covering up our failures
* suppressing our feelings
* demanding our own way
* having no close friendships
* making all the decisions
* controlling everyone’s behavior
* leaving religion to women
It may be that this problem of control comes out most strongly in the issue of discipline. How we discipline our children demonstrates more about our own character than we may care to admit. Controlling, dictating dads don’t make good disciplinarians, and they don’t produce healthy, God-fearing children. It takes strength to discipline in a godly way, and controlling dads don’t have it.
Godly discipline takes place in a home only when it takes place in the heart of a man. Discipline is the overflow of a vital, growing relationship between a man and his God. We cannot discipline our children if we have not disciplined our own walk with God.
Spiritual discipline is not a set of rules; it grows out of a relationship. It is not behavior modification; it is inspiring in our children an inner desire to please God. It is not being the lord of the manor; it is leading your family out of the relationship you enjoy with the Lord of glory. (Floyd McClung Jr.; God’s Man in the Family, 69-71)
II- The rest of the world uses resources, power, status, and authority to promote self. A Jesus follower uses those things to promote others. (Mt 20:24-28; see also: 2 Sm 5:9-12; Prv 14:21; 19:17; 21:26; 22:9; 28:27; Isa 53; Jer 23; Ez 34; Mt 12:15-21; Mk 10:42-45; 19:21; Lk 12:33; 19:10; 22:24-30; Jn 3:16; 10:10-11, 15; 12:23-25; 13:1-17, 35; 15:13; Acts 20:35; Rom 3:23-25; 8:1-3; 6:17-18; 12:8; 1 Cor 6:20; 7:23; 15:3-4; 2 Cor 5:21; 8:9; Gal 6:10; 2 Cor 8:9; 9:6-11; Phil 2:1-11; 1 Tm 6:18; 1 Pt 5:1-3; 1 Jn 3:16-18)
Do you want to be “great”? Then you need to be a “servant” (diakonos)–that is, wait tables, serve others. Do you want to not just be “great” but to be “first” (the first among the greats)? Then you need to be a “slave” (doulos)–that is, someone “who has no right or existence on his own, who lives solely for others.” (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Matthew–All Authority in Heaven and on Earth, 571)
“The measure of a man is not how many servants he has, but how many men he serves.” — D. L. Moody
When Jesus came into the world, he made it clear that he had not come to be served, but to serve. That meant that he had a keen appreciation of human need and that he was absolutely committed to applying himself to meeting that need. (Stuart Briscoe; Choices for a Lifetime, 132)
The true leader is concerned primarily with the welfare of others, not with his own comfort or prestige. (J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 125)
Jesus did not come to be served by you; He came to serve you. Jesus did not come to be helped by you; He came to help you. Jesus did not come to be waited on by you; He came to wait on you. (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition–Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 272)
Love is a giving away of power. When we love, we give the other person the power in the relationship. They can do what they choose. They can do what they like with our love. They can reject it, they can accept it, they can step toward us in gratitude and appreciation.
Love is a giving away. When we love, we put ourselves out there, we expose ourselves, we allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
Love is giving up control. It’s surrendering the desire to control the other person. The two–love and controlling power over the other person–are mutually exclusive. If we are serious about loving someone, we have to surrender all of the desires within us to manipulate the relationship. (Rob Bell; Sex God, 98)
Greatness does not consist in commanding others to do things for you; it consists in doing things for others; and the greater the service, the greater the honor. Jesus uses a kind of gradation. ‘If you wish to be great,’ he says, ‘be a servant; if you wish to be first of all, be a slave.’ (William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible–Volume Two, 270)
The world may assess people’s greatness by the number of people whom they control and who are at their beck and call; or by their intellectual standing and their academic eminence; or by the number of committees of which they are members; or by the size of their bank balances and the material possessions which they have amassed; but in the assessment of Jesus Christ these things are irrelevant. His assessment is quite simply; how many people have they helped? (William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible–Volume Two, 272)
Greatness is determined by servanthood. The true leader places his or her needs last, as Jesus exemplified in his life and in his death. Being a “servant” did not mean occupying a servile position; rather, it meant having an attitude of life that freely attended to others’ needs without expecting or demanding anything in return. Seeking honor, respect, and the attention of others runs contrary to Jesus’ requirements for his servants. An attitude of service brings true greatness in God’s kingdom. Jesus described leadership from a new perspective. Instead of using people, we are to serve them. Jesus’ mission was to serve others and to give his life away. A real leader has a servant’s heart. Servant leaders appreciate others’ worth and realize that they’re not above any job. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary–Matthew, 398)
Among the children of this world a person is thought the greatest if he has the most land, most money, most servants, most rank and most earthly power; among the children of God a person is reckoned the greatest who does most to promote the spiritual and temporal happiness of his fellow-creatures. True greatness consists not in receiving but in giving; not in selfish absorption of good things but in imparting good to others; not in being served but in serving; not in sitting still and being served but in going about and serving others. (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries–Matthew, 184)
As the great commentator R. C. H. Lenski has observed, God’s “great men are not sitting on top of lesser men, but bearing lesser men on their backs.” (John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Matthew 16-23, 240)
Wealth is to be accumulated strictly for doing works of mercy and spreading the kingdom. Wealth is not to be stored up “for yourselves (Mt 6:19-21). (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 72)
The ministry of mercy is the meeting of “felt” needs through deeds. As an agent of the kingdom, the church seeks to bring substantial healing of the effects of sin in all areas of life, including psychological, social, economic, and physical. (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 45)
And though we must be extremely patient, eventually, aid must be withdrawn if it is abused.
We see then that mercy ministry operates on the same basis as evangelism. Initially, we offer the gospel to anyone and everyone, as we have opportunity and resources to reach them. “Whosoever will”! We do not wait for them to come to us. But, if eventually a person or a group evidences a rebellious and disrespectful attitude toward the gospel, we withdraw. Continued pressure only hardens them and dishonors the message. (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 97)
When the person in need is acting irresponsibly, and your continued aid would only shield him from the consequences of his own behavior, then it is no longer loving or merciful to continue support. (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 228)
If you put any conditions on your service to Christ (“I will serve you if”) then you are not really serving Christ at all but it is yourself you are serving. —Tim Keller
When they’re willing to serve without regard for the response, then I know they’re beginning to move in the love of God. (Steve Sjogren, Conspiracy of Kindness, 115)
The church has never been without self-seeking leaders who capture the fascination of the people who willingly follow them while they make merchandise of the gospel in order to feather their nests and build up their reputations. By telling people what they like to hear (2 Tm 4:3), they skillfully take advantage of selfish, gullible believers. (John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Matthew 16-23, 239)
God’s mercy comes to us without conditions, but does not proceed without our cooperation. So too our aid must begin freely, regardless of the recipient’s merits. But our mercy must increasingly demand change or it is not really love. (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 93)
“Fathers, Do not Exasperate Your Children” (Eph 6:4)
The Scriptures teach that those in authority have duties to those subject to them. Thus:
* parents should provide for the material, emotional and spiritual needs of their children, (2 Cor 12:14; 1 Tm 4:8) and they should not exasperate their children with unreasonable demands (Col 3:21)
*governmental officials should govern justly, as public servants, without regard to personal profit or advancement (Dt 17:14-20)
*pastors and bishops should follow the example of Christ, Who gave His life for His flock. They should not seek to profit or lord it over others. (1 Pt 5:1-6; 1 Tm 5:1-2)
The Scriptures do not instruct us to obey parents, governors or spiritual leaders when they demand that we violate our conscience and disobey God (Jud 6:25-32; Acts 4:18-20). Nor do the Scriptures excuse tyranny that those in authority might exercise. God Himself will hold them accountable for such misuse of authority. (1 Kgs 21:1-26; Prv 29;14) (Foundations of a Living Faith: The Catechism of the Free Methodist Church, 46-8)
“Christian boldness is loving…I once asked my friend, Fred Smith, one of the wisest Christians I know, the difference between motivation and manipulation. They often appear to be the same thing. Fred said that, while manipulation is for the benefit of the one doing the manipulating, motivation is for the benefit of the motivator and the one being motivated. I like that, because it is similar to Christian boldness. Christians don’t ‘win through intimidation’. They don’t have to! Christian boldness is a boldness that never forgets the other person. You file that kind of boldness under love.” (Steve Brown; Living Free, 40-2)
Manipulations! It’s a game any number can play, right in the privacy of your own home. The objective is to obtain power over the other players, as we have seen. It will come as no surprise to parents, I’m sure, that children can be quite gifted at power games. That is why it is important for mothers and fathers to consider this characteristic as they attempt to interpret childish behavior. Another level of motivation lies below the surface issues that seemingly cause conflicts between generations. For example, when a three-year-old runs away in a supermarket, or when a nine-year-old refuses to straighten his room, or when a twelve-year-old continues to bully his little brother, or when a sixteen-year-old smokes cigarettes or drinks liquor, they are making individual statements about power. Their rebellious behavior usually represents more than a desire to do what is forbidden. Rather, it is an expression of independence and self-assertion. It is also a rejection of adult authority, and therein lies the significance for us. (Dr. James C. Dobson; Parenting Isn’t for Cowards, 112)
The way we employ the surplus hours after provision has been made for work, meals, and sleep will determine if we develop into mediocre or powerful people. Leisure is a glorious opportunity and a subtle danger. Each moment of the day is a gift from God that deserves care, for by any measure, our time is short and the work is great.
Minutes and hours wisely used translate into an abundant life. On one occasion when Michelangelo was pressing himself to finish a work on deadline, someone warned him, “This may cost your life!” He replied, “What else is life for?”
Hours and days will surely pass, but we can direct them purposefully and productively. Philosopher William James affirmed that the best use of one’s life is to spend it for something that will outlast it. Life’s value is not its duration but its donation–not how long we live, but how fully and how well. (J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 93-4)
With astonishing humility, Jesus, their Lord and Teacher, washed the feet of His disciples as an example of how all His followers should serve with humility.
In this life there will always be a part of us (the Bible calls it the flesh) that will say, “If I have to serve, I want to get something for it. If I can be rewarded, or gain a reputation for humility, or somehow turn it to my advantage, then I’ll give the impression of humility and serve.” But this isn’t Christlike service. This is hypocrisy. (Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 115-6)
We live in a proud and egotistical generation. People push and promote themselves in ways that would have been abhorrent and totally unacceptable only a generation ago. Yet in a great part of modern culture, pride and high self-esteem have come to be redefined not only as virtues but as the supreme virtues. Our day is reminiscent of the time in history when at the height of the ancient Greek and Roman empires pride was exalted and humility belittled. This tragic development will surely contribute to the demise of modern society as it did to the demise of Greece and Rome. No society can survive the self-destructiveness of pride run rampant, because every society depends for its preservation and success on the mutually supportive and harmonious relationships among its people. When a significant number of them become committed only to themselves and to their own interests, with little regard for their families, friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens, society disintegrates. As self becomes stronger, relationships become weaker. As self-rights become supreme, the interpersonal bonds that hold society together are severed. (John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur NT Commentary–Matthew 16-23, 229-30)
Worship Point: When you recognize the wisdom, love, compassion and justice of God Who encourages us to promote a world where loving your neighbor as yourself is the standard and asking “What is in it for me” is discouraged . . . worship will come quite naturally.
American society is awash in relativism.
What is the basis for law if there is no absolute truth? The basis is whoever has the majority–rule by the 51 percent. Oliver Wendell Holmes once said that “law is the majority vote of that nation that could lick all others.” Pure pragmatism.
The inevitable result is tyranny, drawn into the vacuum of moral chaos. If authority cannot be established among people by their shared assumptions, by their agreement about the meaning of life, then it will be imposed on them from the top. As William Penn said, “If we are not governed by God, we will be governed by tyrants.”
When truth retreats, tyranny advances. (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 292)
Fenelon pointed out that sin is self-defeating. “We refuse ourselves to God, who only wants to save us. We give ourselves up to the world, which only wants to tyrannize over us and destroy us.” (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 65)
People seek power for personal fulfillment and with the hopes of changing society, but political power fails on both counts. Seeking power leads to corruption; it fails to solve our problems because power cannot change the human heart, which is the source of our behavior and our sin. For centuries, political leaders have promised redemption through utopian government solutions. But because these programs are based on a false worldview, they always lead to tyranny in one form or another. (Charles Colson, The Good Life, 315)
In the Western world, this rejection of sin began with the Enlightenment. Enlightenment thinkers rejected the biblical God and quickly denied human sin as well. The French social philosopher Rousseau said, “Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains,” because society has enslaved him. Freud took this one step further and taught that humans are simply animals. The bottom line? There is no sin, no soul, no conscience; we are simply manipulated by forces beyond our control. In other words, Freud said, we are not responsible for our actions. Society or some other influence outside of ourselves compels us to do what we do. This denial of sin can lead to utopianism, whose proponents say, “Give me power, and I’ll create a good society so good people can life well.” But utopianism always leads to tyranny, as utopians Hitler, Lennin, Stalin, and Mao demonstrated. (Charles Colson, The Good Life, 248-9)
The notion that freedom essentially consists in the absence of constraints will not hold water. Indeed, constraints are often a guarantee of freedom. It is because our country’s laws do not leave us “free” to choose which side of the road to drive on that we can freely move about. A series of constraints has been formulated to guarantee our freedom in that respect. There are rules about yielding at crossroads, about pausing at traffic lights, about when to dim the headlights. If someone suggested to you that these regulations constituted a tyrannous diminution of your freedom, you would reply, “On the contrary, it is because these regulations are enforced that we can freely drive about our roads in safety.” The constraints provide an essential safeguard of our freedom as drivers. Without them roads on which streams of traffic now move smoothly and safely would be clogged up quickly with crashed vehicles.
Far from reducing freedom, constraints and regulations may confer freedom. This, of course, is one of the principles on which our civilization has been built. It was the principle behind laws and protocols accepted in the past, even those that condemned witchcraft, adultery and homosexual practices. No doubt we are right to have escaped such legislation. But we need to recall that the more recent abolition of restraints that protected marriage and the family can scarcely be said to have been productive of greater happiness, increased mental stability or reduced crime. (Harry Blamires; The Post Christian Mind, 144)
“A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.” —Alexander Tyler
“The average age of the worlds greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:
From Bondage to spiritual faith;
From spiritual faith to great courage;
From courage to liberty;
From liberty to abundance;
From abundance to complacency;
From complacency to apathy;
From apathy to dependence;
From dependence back into bondage.”
Citation is doubted. But, the contents remains true non the less. However, there is no record of The Fall of the Athenian Republic or The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic in the Library of Congress, which has several other titles by Tyler. This quote has also been cited as being from Tyler’s Universal History or from his Elements of General History, Ancient and Modern, books that do exist. These books seem the most likely source of the quote, as they contain extensive discussions of the political systems in historic civilizations, including Athens. Universal History was published after, and based upon, Elements of General History, which was a collection of Professor Tyler’s lecture notes.
The mother of James and John came to Jesus, kneeling before him. She worshiped Jesus, but her real motive was to get something from him. Too often this happens in our churches and in our lives. We play religious games, expecting God to give us something in return. True worship, however, adores and praises Christ for who he is and for what he has done. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary–Matthew, 395)
Augustine wrote in his classic The City of God: “Two cities have been formed by two loves; the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self. The former, in a word, glories in itself. The latter in the Lord.” (John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Matthew 16-23, 233)
Gospel Application: You can never willingly live for others without Jesus as Lord of your heart. It takes the power of the Gospel.
As Edmund Clowney has put it, “God requires the love that cannot be required.” Mercy is commanded, but it must not be the response to a command, it is an overflowing generosity as a response to the mercy of God which we received. (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 62)
The only true and enduring motivation for the ministry of mercy is an experience and a grasp of the grace of God in the gospel. If we know we are sinners saved by grace alone, we will be both open and generous to the outcasts and the unlovely. (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 58)
Whenever the church has been spiritually strong it has distrusted its own wisdom and strength and looked to the Lord’s, as it shunned its own glory and sought only His, and it has condemned pride and exalted humility. Times of spiritual awakening are inevitably characterized by a sincere sense of brokenness, contrition, and unworthiness. There is always reverential fear of the Word of God, which, working through genuine meekness, gives the church great power. Like Paul, the church becomes strong when it knows it is weak (2 Cor 12:10). (John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary–Matthew 16-23, 230)
You are slaves to sin. Through his death, Jesus paid to set you free. You are set free from sin and made a slave to righteousness. You have been freed to serve others first. You have been freed to sacrificially live out the gospel. (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Matthew–All Authority in Heaven and on Earth, 576)
Something is wrong if you can’t serve the Lord with gladness. I can understand why the person who serves God only out of obligation doesn’t serve with gladness. I can understand why the person who serves God in an attempt to earn his way to Heaven doesn’t serve with gladness. But the Christian who gratefully acknowledges what God has done for him for eternity should be able to serve God cheerfully and with joy. (Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 113-4)
Paul describes his service to God with these words in Col 1:29: “To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.” The word labor means to work to the point of exhaustion, while from the Greek word translated “struggling” comes our word agonize. So for Paul to serve God was “to agonize to the point of exhaustion.” That doesn’t mean it was miserable toil; in fact, the reason Paul worked so hard was because the only thing he loved more than serving God was God Himself. God supplies us with the power to serve Him. We struggle in service “with all his energy, which so powerfully works” in us. True ministry is never forced out by the flesh. But the result of His power working mightily in us is “labor.” (Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 119-20)
Now we are in a position to see why Jesus (and Isaiah, James, John, and Paul) can use the ministry of mercy as a way to judge between true and false Christianity. A merely religious person, who believes God will favor him because of his morality and respectability, will ordinarily have contempt for the outcast. “I worked hard to get where I am, and so can anyone else!” That is the language of the moralist’s heart. “I am only where I am by the sheer and unmerited mercy of God. I am completely equal with all other people.” That is the language of the Christian’s heart. (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 61)
Self-righteous service picks and chooses whom to serve. Sometimes the high and powerful are served because that will ensure a certain advantage. Sometimes the low and defenseless are served because that will ensure a humble image. True service is indiscriminate in its ministry. It has heard the command of Jesus to be the “servant of all” (Mk 9:35). Brother Francis of Assisi notes in a letter, “Being the servant of all, I am bound to serve all and to administer the balm-bearing words of my lord.”
Self-righteous service is affected by moods and whims. It can serve only when there is a “feeling” to serve (“moved by the Spirit” as we say). Ill health or inadequate sleep controls the desire to serve. True service ministers simply and faithfully because there is a need. It knows that the “feeling to serve” can often be a hindrance to true service. The service disciplines the feelings rather than allowing the feeling to control the service. (Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 129)
The heir of heaven serves his Lord simply out of gratitude; he has no salvation to gain, no heaven to lose; …now, out of love to the God who chose him, and who gave so great a price for his redemption, he desires to lay out himself entirely to his Master’s service. O you who are seeking salvation by the works of the law, what a miserable life yours must be! …you have that if you diligently persevere in obedience, you may perhaps obtain eternal life, though alas! none of you dare to pretend that you have attained it. You toil and toil and toil, but you never get that which you toil after, and you never will, for, “by the works of the law there shall no flesh living be justified.” …The child of God works not for life, but from life; he does not work to be saved, he works because he is saved. (Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 114-5)
The people of God do not serve Him in order to be forgiven but because we are forgiven. When believers serve only because they feel guilty if they don’t, it’s as though they serve with a ball and chain dragging from their ankles. There’s no love in that kind of service, only labor. There’s no joy, only obligation and drudgery. But Christians aren’t prisoners who should serve in God’s Kingdom grudgingly because of guilt. We can serve willingly because Christ’s death freed us from guilt. (Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 115)
We should recognize that true faith and real error can be mixed in the heart of the best Christians. Can a high view of Jesus coexist with a higher view of self? Yes. Can great faith and great ignorance be wed in one brain? Yes again. Thus we ought to persistently pray for purity, and we ought to gently seek to purify one another. (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Matthew–All Authority in Heaven and on Earth, 569)
*Self-righteous service comes through human effort. True service comes from a relationship with the divine Other deep inside.
*Self-righteous service is impressed with the “big deal.” True service finds it almost impossible to distinguish the small from the large service.
*Self-righteous service requires external rewards. True service rests contented in hiddenness.
*Self-righteous service is highly concerned about results. True service is free of the need to calculate results.
*Self-righteous service picks and chooses whom to serve. True service is indiscriminate in its ministry.
*Self-righteous service is affected by moods and whims. True service ministers simply and faithfully because there is a need.
*Self-righteous service is temporary. True service is a life-style.
*Self-righteous service is without sensitivity. It insists on meeting the need even when to do so would be destructive. True service can withhold the service as freely as perform it.
*Self-righteous service fractures community. True service, on the other hand, builds community. (Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, “The Discipline of Service”)
Spiritual Challenge: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. (Phil 2:3-7)
We all like to be called servants until we are treated like one. (Mark Devers message, 5 Keys to Spiritual Growth)
True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less. (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 64)
Humility rests on self-knowledge; pride reflects self-ignorance. Humility expresses itself in self-distrust and conscious dependence on God; pride is self-confident and, though it may go through the motions of humility with some skill (for pride is a great actor), it is self-important, opinionated, tyrannical, pushy, and self-willed. “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prv 16:18). (J. I. Packer; Rediscovering Holiness, pgs. 149-150)
The true servant of the people is the man who preaches realizable ideals; and who then practices what he has preached. (Theodore Roosevelt, Fear God and Take Your Own Part, 24)
The Greeks considered humility to be the lowest virtue; Jesus made it the highest. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary–Matthew, 398)
The secret of a happy Christian life is to realize that it is all of grace and rejoice in that fact. ‘So likewise ye,’ says our Lord in another place, ‘when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you say, ‘We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do”.’ That is His view, that is His teaching and is the secret of it all. Was not that His own way? It was, according to St. Paul, who says: ‘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’. You see what that means. He did not look at Himself, he did not consider Himself and His own interests only; He made Himself of no reputation, He laid aside the insignia of His eternal Glory. He did not regard His equality with God as something to hold on to and say: ‘Come what may I will not let it go’. Not at all, He laid aside, He humbled Himself, He forgot Himself, and He went through and endured and did it all He did, looking only to the glory of God. Nothing else mattered to him but that the father should be glorified and that men and women should come to the father. That is the secret, Not watching the clock, not assessing the amount of work, not keeping a record book, but forgetting everything except the glory of God, the privilege of being called to work for Him at all, the privilege of being a Christian, remembering only the grace that has ever looked upon us and removed us from darkness to light. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, 132)
Labor to be clothed with humility. Humility makes a man peaceable among brethren, fruitful in well-doing, cheerful in suffering, and constant in holy walking (1 Peter 5:5). Humility fits for the highest services we owe to Christ, and yet will not neglect the lowest service to the meanest saint (Jn 13:5). Humility can feed upon the meanest dish, and yet it is maintained by the choicest delicates, as God, Christ, and glory. Humility will make a man bless him that curses him, and pray for those that persecute him. An humble heart is an habitation for God, a scholar for Christ, a companion of angels, a preserver of grace, and a fitter for glory. Humility is the nurse of our graces, the preserver of our mercies, and the great promoter of holy duties. Humility cannot find three things on this side heaven: it cannot find fullness in the creature, nor sweetness in sin, nor life in an ordinance without Christ. An humble soul always finds three things on this side heaven: the soul to be empty, Christ to be full, and every mercy and duty to be sweet wherein God is enjoyed. Humility can weep over other men’s weaknesses, and joy and rejoice over their graces. Humility will make a man quiet and contented in the meanest condition, and it will preserve a man from envying other men’s prosperous condition (1 Thess 1:2, 3). Humility honors those that are strong in grace, and puts two hands under those that are weak in grace (Eph 3:8). Humility makes a man richer than other men, and it makes a man judge himself the poorest among men. Humility will see much good abroad, when it can see but little at home. Ah, Christian! Though faith be the champion of grace, and love the nurse of grace, yet humility is the beautifer of grace; it casts a general glory upon all the graces in the soul. Ah! Did Christians more abound in humility, they would be less bitter, froward, and sour, and they would be more gentle, meek, and sweet in their spirits and practices. Humility will make a man have high thoughts of others and low thoughts of a man’s self; it will make a man see much glory and excellency in others, and much baseness and sinfulness in a man’s self; it will make a man see others rich, and himself poor; others strong, and himself weak; others wise, and himself foolish. Humility will make a man excellent at covering others’ infirmities, and at recording their gracious services, and at delighting in their graces; it makes a man joy in every light that outshines his own, and every wind that blows others good. Humility is better at believing than it is at questioning other men’s happiness. I judge, saith an humble soul, it is well with these Christians now, but it will be far better with them hereafter. They are now upon the borders of the New Jerusalem, and it will be but as a day before they slide into Jerusalem. An humble soul is more willing to say, Heaven is that man’s, than mine; and Christ is that Christian’s, than mine; and God is their God in covenant, than mine. Ah! Were Christians more humble, there would be less fire and more love among them than now is. (Thomas Brooks; Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, 209)