How To Be Famous
This article appeared in the May 26th edition of the Cottonwood Chronicle
© 05.24.10 By D. Eric Williams
It seems everyone wants to be famous these days. Not necessarily world famous but “celebrated in public report; renowned; much talked of; praised and distinguished” (thank you Mr. Webster), among their circle of friends and acquaintances. Some folks cultivate localized fame by fine-tuning an eccentric personality (always speak their mind, ignore popular trends or whatever). Others become well known in their sphere of influence by pushing their opinion on a variety of issues and still others through being the best source of community information (gossip) in town. What these kinds of people have in common is a desire to be noticed, to be known and to be served in one way or another. They crave a “name” even if it is a moniker suited to a big fish in a little pond.
Now, the Bible doesn't tell us we should avoid fame. In fact the Lord Jesus instructed us to seek out fame – as long as it is kingdom style fame. Jesus said, whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all (Mark 10:43-44). Moreover, the Apostle Paul wrote, Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself (Philippians 2:3). And again, Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another (Romans 12:10). Unless we desire to be a servant to our brothers and sisters in Christ we are lusting after the wrong kind of fame. In short, if you want to be somebody in the kingdom you need to be a nobody.
But will there come a day when Believers who were servants in this realm are big shots - in eternity maybe? Well, yes and no.
Remember, kingdom reality is not the same as worldly reality. As we have seen, Jesus uses the words “great” and “first” in a way very different from the way the world use those words. For those who live under the authority of Jesus Christ (the kingdom), rank and power are not the goal. Instead, Jesus upends the worldly ideal in rejecting fame and establishes servant-hood as the standard of greatness. A slave is last in rank. A slave has no power. Thus, in the kingdom, “great” and “first” mean something entirely different than in the world.
Furthermore, to understand a little something about fame in eternity we need look no further than the heavenly example of Jesus. During his earthly ministry, even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Now, entrusted with all authority in heaven and earth (Matthew 28:16-20), Jesus continues to serve. He mediates for us (1 Timothy 2:5), he superintends creation for the sake of his elect (Colossians 1:15-20), he disciplines us (1 Corinthians 11:32, cf. Hebrews 12:5-11) and works all things for our good so we might become like him (Romans 8:28-30). Jesus preserves and protects, gathers, guides and feeds us (John 10:3-28). I could go on, but I think you get the point; greatness and “firstness” in eternity are understood according to the definition Christ provided while on earth.
Therefore, if any of us want to be well known we need to be unknown. If we want to be great we need to small. If we want to be first we need to be last. In short, if we want kingdom fame we need to imitate Jesus. Amen.