The Right Stuff

“Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:26-28

Their resumés would have been a bit thin:

Names: James and John
Previous employment: Net menders/fish catchers/wave riders, Zebedee & Sons, Inc.
Education: Not exactly
Relevant experience: Disciples of Jesus “Maybe the Messiah” of Nazareth
Career goal: To be chiefs of staff to Jesus after he becomes king
References: Mom

The problem wasn’t that James and John were under-qualified. It wasn’t even—as the other disciples groused—one of naked, power-hungry ambition.

James and John wanted to be great, alright, but their desire was for the good kind of greatness. Like most of us, they wanted to excel at making a difference. They wanted the power to change the world for the better—and that’s a holy fire in the belly to be fueled, a calling to be followed, a dream job worth pursuing.

But they didn’t understand how change happens or what power requires. Like many of us, their eyes were on the ladder and they were committed to the climb—for the good of all, you understand.

Hold up, Jesus said. The power to change the world doesn’t come from the top down or the outside in. True success—the capacity to love, liberate, and empower—is an inside-out, bottom-up job. Being great is not about having or getting the right stuff; it’s about giving up and giving away. The career path worth following is not the four-lane highway that leads to a corner office but the dusty trail of personal transformation. There are no shortcuts, just lots of people needing you to stand with them and work with them for a better day.

You wanna be great? Jesus asks. Fine, but you’d better know what you’re in for. Then go for it with all you’ve got.


Great Servant and Lover of all, give me the power to build a resumé that makes others look better than me. Amen.

About the Author
Vicki Kemper is the Pastor of First Congregational, UCC, of Amherst, Massachusetts.