The Power and Prestige Trap

For our freedom so that we will never need prestige or power; we only need Him. Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues.

Matthew 23:5-6


In Matthew 20, the mother of James and John requested that Jesus allow her sons to sit on each side of Jesus in His kingdom. At first glance, we hear a mother’s request that spans the ages. A mother today could easily desire for her sons to have a special place of authority. As parents, we wish the highest and best for our children. Parents today naturally seek to advance their children to their highest potential. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with that; however, when the motive is to have power or prestige, or even authority that God has not ordained, we can fall into a trap of self- promotion, or in this case of promoting our children apart from the will of God. In the same story in Mark, the mother is never mentioned. Instead, the sons ask for this special position of favor. Regardless of who made the request to Jesus, the deeper truth here is that we are to humbly serve the Lord and others, seek Him and His will in all things, and trust Him to place us in positions where He has called us.

Jesus tells the crowds and His disciples that the Pharisees did everything for men to see. Their religious activities were a sham because they did not practice what they preached. (Matthew 23:5-6) The Pharisees were more concerned with their power and position than they were with their relationship with God.

In the case of the promotion of James and John and the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, we see a common problem. The concern was for themselves, not for others. Their desire was to self-promote – to have the position of honor, and in the case of the Pharisees, the coveted title of Rabbi. The Lord came as a humble servant, and He modeled a servant’s heart throughout His ministry on earth. As He went to the cross, He did not consider equality with God as something He needed to attain; after all, He was God. He could have told His Father, I would like plan “B” please – not the cross. He could have reminded His Father that He was the King’s Son. No, He chose to become a servant, to die as a criminal taking the lowest position of all. He has paid for our freedom so that we will never need prestige or power; we only need Him.

Heavenly Father,

Forgive me for desiring prestige and power. Sometimes I get so caught up in the world, thinking that the world will offer me something that I don’t have. Forgive my discontentment and enable me to have a servant’s heart.

In Jesus’ name, Amen

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