“If anyone wants to be greatest, they must be last – and the servant of everyone.” (Mark 9:35)

Jesus stated this after his students were debating amongst themselves regarding which of them was the greatest:
Then he arrived at Capernaum – and once they got to the house, he asked them, “What was it that you were arguing about on the way here?” But they were silent, because they were arguing about who is greatest among them. (Mark 9:33-35)
Jesus' response is mirrored elsewhere:
“You know that the leaders of the pagans exert their power over them, and their power confers authority over them. Yet this will not be with you – rather, whoever intends to be great among you will be your attendant – and whoever intends to be first among you will be your servant.” (Matt. 20:25-26)
Rather, he who is your servant will be greatest among you." (Matt. 23:11)

Do most of us want to be the greatest?

Jesus' disciples were arguing about who was the greatest. Isn't this typical among humans in this world? We are constantly posturing and struggling with each other to prove to others that we are the greatest - that we are better than everyone else.

We find this all over society. We find it in government and politics, as people struggle to gain positions of authority. We find it in business, as people struggle to land the top job or control over the company. We find it in sports, as athletes struggle for many years to win a race or other contest, or become an Olympic champion or professional athlete.

We find this competition to gain positions of respect also among religious institutions. The epitome of this is the hankering that goes on in the form of a political appointment to Cardinal or even Pope. So many people will state that the Pope is the representative of God when it was simply an election of people that put him in this position.

Whether it is becoming president or CEO or Olympic champion or preacher or Pope, people of this world are hankering to be the greatest at something.

We don't want to be a servant. We want to be the master. We want others to praise us and serve us. We don't want to serve others. And the only time we pretend to be servants is so that we can get something in return.

This is our disease. This is self-centeredness - a disease of the soul. And Jesus' teachings offer us the prospect of becoming cured of this disease of self-centeredness.

This means becoming mindful of the Supreme Being. It means accepting that God is the true Master and we are His servants. It means wanting to please the Supreme Being with one's life instead of seeing life as simply a means for our own enjoyment.

Is this an illusion?

The physical body we are occupying is dying before our eyes. Every day the body ages and gets closer to its demise. Meanwhile, atoms and molecules are being exchanged constantly - so nothing we see around us is stable or permanent. It is all just light bouncing off temporary molecular structures. The reflected light is then picked up by the nerve endings in our eyes, which transmit to our brain an illusion that the world is full of solid, permanent objects.

This illusory physical realm was set up by the Supreme Being to provide a learning experience for us spirit-persons who rejected our spiritual loving relationship with Him - desiring instead to enjoy life in a self-centered fashion.

In other words, we became selfish. Just as a child who becomes a selfish brat will undergo many lessons set up by the parents to teach them to become a better person - consequence learning - this physical world is also set up for consequence learning. This is the nature of the physical world.

Why is being a servant exalted by Jesus?

The spirit-person can only become truly happy by regaining our loving service relationship with the Supreme Being. The spirit-person becomes great only when we become a loving servant of the Supreme Being and the children of the Supreme Being. Jesus stated this clearly about himself:
"By myself I can do nothing; As I hear, I make choices, and my choices are just because I do not seek to please myself but to please Him who sent me." (John 5:30)
Wanting to please God means becoming His loving servant. Jesus sought to please God because he saw himself as God's loving servant.

Why would being a servant put a person into a greater position according to Jesus?

Because service - being a servant - is linked to love, and service is the expression of love. Love for God also means love for others. And this sort of love - spiritual love - is expressed by loving service.

The kind of "servant" Jesus is is referring to is not the same as slavery. Nor is it the same as the service that one does on the job - where the service is performed in return for payment.

Just consider what it means to love someone. What does a person do when they love another person? They will do stuff to please that other person, right? This is service. The emotion of love is empty without the activity of love.

And what is the activity of love?

Loving service: Being the beloved's servant.

Just consider if a man were to say to his woman friend as they are getting intimate: "I love you." But then the woman gets in an accident and the man does nothing to help the woman. He doesn't come to the hospital to bring her flowers, or offer to help her take care of her affairs as she is in the hospital. Do you now think the man really loves the woman?

Certainly not. Anyone would say he doesn't really love her, since he didn't care when she had the accident. This means his statement of love isn't backed up by practical action - service.

Is service about love?

The thing that most people do not understand when they consider religion or religious activity is that it is not about joining a sect or religious group. It is about a relationship: A relationship with God.

Service to God within such a relationship is voluntary. God never forces anyone to serve Him. Love is about freedom.

This is why Jesus' most important instruction was to love God. Because it is our choice to love Him or not:
"and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’ – this is the most important instruction. And the second is like it – ‘You shall love others as yourself.’ There is no other instruction greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)
This is about love. The Supreme Being loves us - and cares for us. Yet most of us - even many who claim to be religious - ignore Him. Some will even claim they love God or Jesus while they ignore the Supreme Being in their practical daily lives.

In fact, many who go to church or join some religious organization or do a bake sale or whatever - are doing these things for ulterior motives. Most want to be paid back for such service.

They may also do such things to feel they belong (within some group) or to impress others with their religiosity. For many, it is about a combination of these things. They may be wanting to impress others as well as think they are going to be saved in return for their service.

This is like the man (above) who told the woman he loved her but did nothing for her after her accident. He didn't really care about her at all. He only said he loved her because he wanted her to sleep with him.

In other words, his so-called love was simply a ruse to get something in return. That is not love. That is a business exchange.

But the Supreme Being isn't like the woman. He knows right away whether we care about Him or not. He knows our heart. Even if we claim to love Him or serve Him: If we really don't care about Him, He will know immediately. We cannot fool God.

How does one enter a loving service relationship with God?

In order to love someone, we must first come to know them. And since we are speaking of the Supreme Being here, the only way to come to know God is if God allows us to come to know Him.

You see, if God doesn't want us to see Him - we won't see Him. And this is precisely what is going on while we are in this world. Most of us cannot see God even though He is readily available to us - because He doesn't want us to see Him.

He is hiding Himself from us with the veil of the illusory physical world.

Do we not want to see God?

In order for God to show Himself to us, we must first change our attitude that I am the master and the most important person in my life. Once we come to the conclusion that God is the Master and the most important person - not only in my life but in everyone's life - and we sincerely seek a relationship with Him and we ask Him if we can come to know Him and love Him - then He will begin to show Himself to us.

This requires us to have a change of heart. It requires us to reach out to God. This means praying to God. It means taking shelter in God. Crying out to God from within our hearts. It means glorying God. It means making offerings to God.

These are action steps. These are activities of service. By glorifying God's Names and by making offerings to God we connect with Him, and begin to resume our natural position as one of God's humble loving servants.

As we embrace this position of being servant and not master - and live this position - God can begin to show Himself to us and we can begin to fall in love with Him:
"‘Hear O Israel – the LORD our God is our only Lord – and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’ – this is the most important instruction." (Mark 12:29-30)