How to Be Great (According to Jesus)?

20 March 2013 by Timothy Tai-


There’s a scene from the movie ‘Oz the Great and Powerful’ where the small-time circus magician Oscar Diggs declares, “Kansas is full of good men. I don’t want to be a good man. I want to be a great one!”



Although Oscar might just be a fictional character in a fanciful tale, his desire for greatness is something that strikes a very real emotional chord in every one of us. It doesn’t matter what background you’re from or what line of work you’re in. We’re not content to just be average or merely be good at something. We yearn to excel and to be truly great. What’s more, we want our greatness to be recognized and acknowledged by others around us.

Athletes in the sports arena continually train and compete to come in first place and set new records while actors and musicians in the entertainment world struggle and strive to win Oscars and Grammys. Even intellectual giants in the fields of literature, physics and economics labor and toil tirelessly to attain greatness by winning the prestigious Nobel Prize in their respective areas of expertise. And as for those of us with regular jobs, we too aspire to achieve greatness in our own ways whether it’s by becoming the top salesperson in our company or by being the most successful one within our circle of friends.



Did you know that even Jesus’ own disciples had ambitions of greatness and quarreled with each other on more than one occasion about who was the greatest disciple? Let’s see what lesson Jesus had to teach them about how to be great. We can read his words in Luke Chapter 9:

Then his disciples began arguing about which of them was the greatest. But Jesus knew their thoughts, so he brought a little child to his side. Then he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me also welcomes my Father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.” – Luke 9:46-48 (NLT)



Obviously, the disciples didn’t get what Jesus was trying to tell them because they had another dispute about the issue as documented in Luke Chapter 22:

Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them. Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.” – Luke 22:24-27 (NLT)



Or as it is written in the gospel of Matthew:

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.– Matthew 20:25-28 (NIV)

It’s clear that Jesus’ teaching on greatness varies widely from what the world teaches. The world tells us that personal greatness is achieved by exalting ourselves and lording over others. According to Jesus however, the way to true greatness is by humbling ourselves and serving others.



The greatest among you must be a servant. – Matthew 23:11 (NLT)

With that in mind, let us go about our day and indeed our very lives, by asking ourselves this question:

“How can I serve others today?”


Note: Timothy grew up in Kuching and worked in KL before jumping off the corporate ladder in 2006. He moved to New York City where he served at an inner-city kids ministry for almost 6 years. He has since returned to KL and has just married his Irish fiancee Sarah.


Dear Viewers in Christ, if you find this article edifying to you, please share with your friends or loved ones by using the social media plugs (Share, Email to this article). The Lord will surely bless you as you bless others. May the Lord’s peace and love be with you. Amen.  


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