What are the signs of greatness? If we go by the ways of the world, we might think of a big salary, an expensive car or jewelry, a fancy title, a miter and crozier, the corner office, sitting atop the org chart at work, or having a certain number of followers on Twitter. For James and John, greatness would have been sitting at Jesus’ right and left when he came into his glory.
Jesus’ definition of greatness is entirely different: not merely a servant, much less a servant leader, but rather “the slave of all.” In practical terms, one can be great with little salary or no salary at all, a desk in a storage room or a cubicle, invisibility on the org chart, jeans and a t-shirt as much as an alb and stole.
We know from experience that greatness as Jesus (re)defines it begins with a spiritual disposition and virtues like humility, kindness, sensitivity, diligence, etc. One can be a Jesus-like servant in the boardroom, and one can be a tyrant on the factory floor. Greatness in the generous and tireless service of others is possible everywhere and in all of us, as long as we are willing to follow the example of the one who washed his disciples’ feet (John 13:1-20).