“Whosoever will be great among you, shall be … servant of all” (Mark 10:43-44).
If you’re a parent, I ask you to consider carefully your influence on your children and your responsibility for them. What are your ambitions for them? Do your ambitions for your son or daughter include a certain vocation or level of education? Graduation from a certain college? Professional or athletic or artistic recognition? If so, let me ask this: Are any of these ambitions in line with true greatness as defined in Scripture?
And here’s a more important question: Are any of your ambitions for your child more important to you than their cultivation of humility and servanthood—the basis for true greatness as biblically defined? Are any of these ambitions more important to you than their learning to serve others for the glory of God? In other words, are you more interested in temporal recognition for your child than you are in his eternal reward?
As a fellow sinful parent, let me explore with you what it can mean to help your child become truly great in the eyes of God. Here are some recommendations.
Be an Example
First and foremost, parents are to be an example of greatness. Modeling precedes teaching. We cannot teach or train our children if we don’t provide a pattern for them to follow. If you want to adopt this ambition for your child—true greatness in the eyes of God—you must begin by examining your own life and asking yourself, “Am I an example of true greatness as defined in Scripture?
Define True Greatness
Second, we must also clearly define true greatness for our children. Do your children understand the biblical definition of true greatness as Jesus explains it in Mark 10 and as we see it taught elsewhere in Scripture?
Here’s a worthy exercise to engage in: Ask your children to tell you what true greatness means. In this interaction with them, you’ll discover whether they have a biblical understanding of greatness, and if they don’t, you need to define it for them. You need to teach them that greatness doesn’t equal success, or talent, or ability, or power, or applause. It equals servanthood. And it equals humility.
Admire True Greatness
Third, we must teach our children to discern and admire true greatness. Here’s another question for your children: “Whom do you most admire and why?” Their answer will tell you a lot.
Our culture daily celebrates those who are clearly not great in the eyes of God. And to a certain degree our children cannot escape the world’s influence. But are they able to see through the hype? Are they able to turn their attention away from these false heroes and to instead admire those who are truly great as biblically defined?
If you’re a parent, be assured that parenting is something God has called you to and that He has personally assigned your children to you both for their good and for your sanctification. They’re gifts from God, and they come with all the grace you need to prepare them for their future—and in particular for the day when you’ll appear with them before the judgment seat of Christ. What can you do today so that you and your children will then hear the words “Well done”?
—Condensed from Humility: True Greatness by C.J. Mahaney, © 2005 by Sovereign Grace Ministries.