Week 24: What makes a person great?

Think about the important people in your church, school, community, and nation. Would it surprise you to know that your list is probably very different from God’s list? Today’s devotion will challenge us to think differently about what makes a person great.

Be ready to read the following passages:

Let’s start it.

Name a person you think is important, and then tell your family what makes that person so great. 

Let’s learn it.

Your list of important people likely included some well-known and powerful people. But a person isn’t great just because he or she is famous or holds an important position. Take a look at what Jesus said about greatness in Mark 10:35-45 when two brothers came to Him with a big request.

James and John were ambitious; they had a desire to rise above their fellow disciples to powerful positions in God’s kingdom. Their request shows the same attitude we saw last week when the disciples were arguing over who was the greatest. Jesus challenged how they thought about what makes a person great. He explained that to be truly great they needed to serve, not be served. Do you think that Jesus’ answer confused them? After all, the world thinks of servants as the ones who help the important people – right?

This is where God challenges us to think differently, too. We often go to God with selfish prayers, asking for things that would make us look better in the eyes of other people. We have to remember that Jesus is our example. He never let someone’s opinion stop Him from serving His Father, and He is the greatest leader the world will ever know. People in leadership positions can find their greatest success by following Jesus’ example of humble service.

Matthew wrote about this same event in his gospel, but he added an interesting detail we can learn from. Ask a family member to read the beginning of this story in Matthew 20:20-21 to find out what that detail is.

What new detail did Matthew give us? It seems that James and John’s mother shared their misguided ideas about greatness. Jesus challenged her thinking as well. Like most parents, she was proud of her children and wanted them to be successful. But to really help her sons become great men, she needed to guide them to be holy rather than just look for what would make them happy. Servants in God’s kingdom should have different ideas from the world’s ideas about what makes a person great or important.

Let’s discuss it.

  1. What ideas does our society have about greatness? How are those ideas radically different from God’s?
  2. What position, role, or achievement are you trying to reach? Discuss how your motives for that accomplishment could either honor or dishonor the Lord.
  3. What is the difference between giving your very best effort and feeling as if you have to be the best or greatest at what you do?

Let’s do it.

Now that Jesus has challenged your thinking, make a new list of truly great people in your church, school, community, and nation. Talk briefly about how members of your family can follow their example.

Having a desire to do your very best honors the Lord. However, we have to guard against the prideful desire for others to think we are great or important. No matter what position you have, following Jesus means living to serve. Close your time together by reading 1 Peter 5:6 as a prayer for the members of your family. Ask God to guard your thinking against selfish desires for greatness.