Do as I say, not as I do
is something I have been heard to say to my sons. In other words, it’s not always how I act that is right, but the things I say when I’ve got my sensible head on. What I truly believe is what should be heeded, not some of the stupid things I do.
This is very much Jesus concern with the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law. For what they taught did not tie up with how they behaved. What they said was right, for they quoted God’s Law, but they didn’t live it out in their own lives.
They placed heavy burdens on people, and did nothing to help them carry them;
everywhere they went, they wanted to be seen, and treated as important;
they wanted to be honoured and treated with respect;
but none of this fitted in with the laws that they taught – the laws of a God who all he asked of people was to love.
And so Jesus warns the crowd, not to do as the Pharisees and Teachers do. Instead they are to do as Jesus does – to be humble and a servant of others. For in that is true greatness found – not in momentary worldly praise and prestige.
Jesus way was not to see what he could take – but to give. That was not just the way he taught, but the way he lived.
Do we practice what we preach? Or is it do as I say, but not as I do?
Do we live as servants, or as those who want to be served?
may my actions
match my words,
may my words
match my beliefs;
may my beliefs
match your teaching
and your way of living.
May I live to serve
and those whose lives I touch
When I was a girl, one of the most popular programmes on children’s tv was Record Breakers, with the wonderful Roy Castle. People on that had proved themselves to be their greatest in their chosen talent, be it tap dancing like Roy, or being fastest at something, tallest, or the most of any number of amazing feats (some of which are mentioned in the iconic theme tune!). People who had worked really hard to excel at something – to be the best.
Being the best is the question at the forefront of the minds of Jesus’ disciples. They had been arguing about which one of them was the greatest. Whether they meant the closest to Jesus, the best at being a disciple, or the best all round good bloke, who knows, but what a ridiculous and futile argument. Jesus has just been telling them how he will be killed for what he is trying to do, and they think which one of them is greatest is an important issue to debate!
So Jesus explains, if you really want to be first, you must put yourself last. The path to true greatness is not looking at yourself, seeing how well you’re doing, telling everybody, or getting a certificate. The way to be truly great is not to look to yourself – but to look to others and their need. To be willing to be a servant to those who need it.
We can spend our lives thinking only about ourselves, concentrating on our lives – or we can think about others, campaigning against injustice, sharing what we have, welcoming others on God’s behalf. Looking to see what others need, and seeking to make it happen.
Jesus was willing to give up everything he had for the people of the world – even his life. What are we being asked to do?
Who do we want to consider us great? People – or God??