There's no doubt that moms want what is the absolute best for their kids. But what happens when happens when that conflicts with the message of the Gospel of Christ?
Picture it. Jesus and his followers are walking to Jerusalem. The road is dry and dusty and they are all weary from many days of travel as Jesus makes his way towards Jerusalem. Despite the dust and the rocks, the mother of James and John, Salome (SAH'-loh-may) respectfully asks Jesus for a favor. In Matthew 20:20-21 it says that she "resctfully bowed to ask him a favor." Jesus responds, "What is your request." She replied, “In your Kingdom, please let my two sons sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.” (Matthew 20:21)
We can laugh it off but we've been there haven't we? I know I have. I have wanted my kids to be in a place of honor and maybe felt they were entitled to _________ because of their hard work. (Forget the fact that every other kids on the team has worked just as hard.) Just because soccer or baseball isn't a spiritual gift (don't hate me for saying that) doesn't mean our faith should live in isolation of our attitude in these moments. In fact, we can get that way in the church and ministry teams as well. What we sometimes see is, those that make the best leaders are sometimes those that are reluctant to take on the responsibility.
When Aunt Sally (read Salome) asks Jesus for what she feels her boys deserve, Jesus responds appropriately by saying: You don't know what it is that you are asking. You don't know where this road leads. It leads to suffering and persecution and death.
Jesus knows that the road to the right hand of the King of Kings means taking the path of the cross. It's a cost too high and they (James and John) would never be able to bear that burden. It wasn't theirs to bear. Jesus was protecting them as much as He was warning them as well about what was to come.
As parents we are quick to make requests or demands on behalf of our kids. We often want what we think is best for them and act or ask accordingly. C'mon, we know the song by Garth Brooks I thank God for unanswered prayers don't we? We know in theory what we often forget to practice. Rather than asking for what WE want, take time to pray over your kids in a way that you are inviting the Father's best for them.
This was Jesus point: Aunt Salome, "to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” (Matthew 20:23) Jesus then goes into a teaching about how those who want and long for the honor aren't the ones that truly deserve it. Jesus explains that the ones that long for it and the parents that ask for it have the wrong idea about what it means to walk with Jesus. Jesus explains it this way:
But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26-28
In other words, those that make the best leaders are the ones who serve faithfully, not seeking the recognition or the Glory or demanding their way. In fact, if we take the entirety of Jesus homily, we understand that those that are demanding their way or that their kids deserve are in danger of misusing the leadership they've been entrusted with and in danger of misguiding those who may be following them.
But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. Matthew 20:25-26
The basic problem is that all of them have underestimated the cost of following Christ and they overestimated their own importance. They didn’t ask for work in the coming Kingdom (which would have been a better request). They asked only for a place of honor. What they wanted was Seniority and the honor that comes with it.
Also, we don't demand leadership and the places of honor in order to feel important, because if we do, we are sure to misuse it. The expectation of demanding things for our kids (or for ourselves for that matter) is that they will THEN get what they deserve. Unfortunately getting earthly honor is the opposite of Christ teachings. To further complicate things, there is often failure at demanded greatness because they weren't ready for it. (Can you say "Hollywood?") The best leaders are those that lead in humility and making much not of ourselves, but of Christ and for His Glory.
Kristin and I are so thankful that over the years we have had the opportunity to see some wonderful leaders emerge from ministry at Spring Hills. From our student leadership teams at uTH and Amplify, to the worship teams mission's teams. The leaders with the biggest impact had parents who trusted that God was at work to bring about His best in their students. In turn, those students learned to trust that God would lead them faithfully into His plan without demanding their way. As Mr Brooks would again remind us: I guess the Lord knows what he's doin' after all.
As we now enter the next phase of life in the Elliott home and see our final child off to "make her way in the world" we also have to remind ourselves to trust in the work of Christ and to pray for His will be done (Matthew 6:10) not ours.
It's hard in some ways. We want to assert our demands and our will, but what we've found is that God has so much better planned if we entrust Him to do what's best. It also alleviates a lot of stress and anxiety that we "could be" or "should be" doing more, when in truth we have usually done all we can.
To sum it up: Pray for God's best over your student, it's ALWAYS much better in the end than what you can imagine or hope for when we stand back and let God move. In the end, they learn what it looks like to lead through the example of humility in leadership and what it looks like to lead from Love, for "the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:28)
Thanks so much for taking a moment to read...
Did you know this Bible narrative is also included in Luke? But you might be surprised that it doesn't quite sound the same. Do the Bible accounts contradict themselves?