Everyone seems to be selling greatness these days. Politicians. Sports. Some religious figures. Entertainment. You name it. Greatness is popular and in demand. Who doesn’t want to be great anyway?
Yesterday I saw and ad for a video game. Seems pretty minor. It’s one of those first person shooting games that puts you in the action, right into the game. The point of the game is to kill your opponents. The end of the ad sold the real motivation – “greatness.” Pictured was a guy standing on top of a heap of smoldering rubble. He looked around at the destruction that was all around him. He survived it – all alone. Is this what we think greatness is? The last one to survive? Causing death and destruction all around us and somehow surviving it? The last man standing? I’ll pass, thanks. Doesn’t sound great to me. Sounds sad and pathetic and lonely.
I hear some politicians talk about making the country great, but never really defining what that means. Apparently it means going back in time though because we keep undoing all sorts of policies that protected people, improved health, made us better stewards of the earth, offered a safety net, and more. Is this what we think greatness is? being the last one to survive, while all the weak and outcast die off? Causing destruction to the planet? Living out Social Darwinism? I’ll pass, thanks. Doesn’t sound great to me at all. Sounds selfish and narcissistic.
I was flipping through the radio yesterday and came across the sports station and they were talking about a quarterback and how he doesn’t look like he did not so long ago. they were easy to critique and criticize his movements, his throws, this decision-making. All from the comfort of their radio station. What exactly is greatness in sports anyway? Being the strongest? Surviving? It’s an impossible task – every player ages out at some point, to be replaced by the next great one, who far outpaces them. And given enough time, that player will be old news and the sports experts will be looking for the next great one. What exactly is great about that? No thanks, I’ll pass. Doesn’t sound great to me. Sounds nit-picky critical. Sounds like never ending exhaustion.
Greatness, according to the world, is all about puffing yourself up – to be the biggest, strongest, wealthiest, more important, have the most power, etc. It’s all about me, me, me.
And it’s empty as could be. Because it doesn’t last. There will always be someone stronger, faster, wealthier, more important, more influential, have more power, etc.
Don’t believe me. Go for a drive on the highway. Even if you are driving 90 mph, I’m willing to bet that you’ll get passed by someone going faster. There is always some jerk who is convinced that they are more important than anyone else, that they have to go faster than everyone else. I just pray they don’t injure anyone else, or even themselves for that matter – someone would have to take care of such an inconsiderate person and I would pity that person.
Want to know what true greatness is. Look to Jesus:
Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 18:4, NRSV)
and another one:
…but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.
(Matthew 20:26-28, NRSV)
Greatness isn’t about me, me, me. It’s about us, us, us. It’s about more than me. Or you. It’s about service. It’s about love. The world can’t ever offer greatness. It will always demand more. There will never be enough. There will always be someone better, greater.
Jesus offers something different – a “greater” greatness. Greatness not based on competition and eliminating the competition – rather greatness based on expansion, invitation, inclusion, service, selflessness, self-emptying. Now that’s what I call great. That I can get on board with. That doesn’t sound exhausting, unlike what our politicians, sports figures, and entertainment offers. It sound like the end of the endless cycle of competition. It sounds like thriving. It sounds like life.
That’s what greatness is.