Meaning of Matthew 23:11-12— "But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant..."


I don’t understand Matthew 23:11-12, “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”

Thank you


@LKHHKL Great question :slight_smile: As Christians we recognize that Jesus’ Kingdom is what is often called an upside down Kingdom. In what way is it upside down? It is upside down because the people who are powerful and wealthy in this world may in fact be poor and wretched in God’s eternal Kingdom. In other words, the way that you win in God’s Kingdom is not by being rich or influential, but by showing sacrificial love to your family, the poor, the oppressed - by putting others before yourself. The exact opposite of how you win in this world.

So Jesus is telling His disciples to serve others rather than seeking to be served; to wash one another’s feet; to care for the children and those without a voice. Being first in social hierarchies in this world has no bearing on being first in God’s Kingdom, so the disciples should seek to serve rather than to rule and if they do rule, to rule through service to others and not for their own gain. Check out Tim Keller’s sermon on this very topic below.

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This is a concept that fascinates me. The world exalts many kinds of people but it seems to really glory in those who are outstanding in certain talents such as in singing, performing, athletics, acting, invention, etc. But God exalts the selfless person; those who show love for others and who are willing to serve people in any way that they can. These types of people don’t usually get the widespread attention that the more “talented” people do, but they are the ones who will be great in God’s kingdom. I think of the Christians I know who lovingly give of themselves over and over with joy in their hearts and know that those are the ones that will be exalted because they are selfless and show the world the love of Christ. This is how we glorify God in our daily walk and how people will be drawn to Christ. And Jesus gave us this example by himself being a servant to the people around him. I love the story that tells of him washing the apostles feet in John 13:1-17:

1 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

To add to the great answers that have been posted here is a short video on the upside down kingdom. I think that you will enjoy it.

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