"Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."
MK 10:35-45

Whom do we serve? If we find ourselves wondering what others think about us, or how we performed, or whether we inadvertently made fools of ourselves, or whether we said too much or too little, we are most likely serving ourselves -- our "ego selves," that is. If we promote ourselves more than we listen to others, or take center stage while others remain on the sidelines, or expect everyone to "drop everything" to cater to our needs, then, again, we are serving ourselves. Or if our "job satisfaction" fluctuates with the amount of praise we receive, or depends upon colleague recognition or kudos from management, then, again, we are into "self service" rather than the service of others. And if our sense of self becomes inflated when our social media posts attract "likes" or even have the possibility of going "viral," then we need to take a hard look at whom it is we are serving.

Who calls us into service? Depending on our station in life, we each have our own constituents: teachers have students: medical practitioners have patients; clergy have parishioners; parents have children; performers have audiences; stores have customers; politicians have the electorate and so forth. Ultimately, however, it is God who calls us into service and it is God whom we must serve, even if this means breaking the laws of the land or going against what is required of us in the workplace. In his final homily, Archbishop Oscar Romero addressed a special plea to members of the military, the National Guard and the police: " Brothers, you come from our own people. You are killing your own brother peasants when any human order to kill must be subordinate to the law of God which says, "Thou shalt not kill." No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God. No one has to obey an immoral law. It is high time you recovered your consciences and obeyed your consciences rather than a sinful order... I implore you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: stop the repression."

God's Law transcends any other law, demanding that we place conscience before obedience to "lesser gods," whether heads of state, employers and even loved ones. Imagine how different history would be had more brave souls said "NO!" to death-dealing policies, cover-ups, and even to popular opinion; and imagine how different your life might have been had you said "No!" to those who pressured you to leave your Christian principles at home!

Placing God First
Jesus himself demonstrated what it means to place God "first." Being great" in the Kingdom of God is not a matter of achieving fame, fortune and celebrity status; rather, it is a matter of wholehearted obedience to the Divine Will. As servant-leader, Jesus reached out to the masses, healing them in body, mind and spirit. He rejected all attempts to crown him king, turning upside-down contemporary notions as to what it meant to be "righteous" in God's eyes. The Parables and the Beatitudes, for example, present a value system in which sinners are welcomed home, enemies are treated with compassion, laborers receive the same compensation for unequal workloads, and peacemakers find blessing. Vying with each other for chief place in the Reign of God, the apostles discover that the "greatest" is as small as a little child (Matt 8:1-4) and that the real leader is the one who serves the rest (Lk 22:24-27).

  1. Have you ever had to say "NO!" to an individual or organization in order to follow your conscience?
  2. How do you discern what "next steps" should be when you feel torn between following an order and going against that order?
  3. To what extent do you find guidance in prayer when you are faced with ethical dilemmas?
  4. What gets in the way of your selfless service to others?