What goes up, must come down.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
So it should make sense that the Creator of these laws of nature would be consistent in the laws of Life-As-It-Was-Meant-To-Be. To us, Jesus' teachings seem upside-down... but what if he is teaching was it right-side-up, and we're the ones who are living upside-down?
Here's another teaching that is hard to grasp - Matthew 20:26-27: "But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave."
Upside-down philosophy #2: If you want true greatness, become the least.
Jesus made a point of lifting up the humble and bringing down the proud, during his whole ministry. And in Philippians 2, we read about how Jesus stepped down from greatness and "made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant." So I think that once again, He meant what he said, and seriously wants his disciples to obey.
Confession: I want to be great. I want to be special, and I want my life to matter. I don't care about being a queen or president or award winner, but I want to go down in the history books as someone who did something exciting and significant to change the world. But when I read the stories of the people in history who I respect the most, I don't think "greatness" was a priority for them. In fact, many of them walked away from greatness or chose against greatness, to become servants and risk being anonymous forever. And frankly, I don't like that idea! I don't mind serving people, but I want it to mean something - I want people to see it and remember it.
It seems like, lately, all my attempts to pursue my own dreams of greatness have been squashed by God. I think, "Surely this isn't where I'll stay, this isn't what I'll do, this isn't my life's work forever, is it?" It's not dreadful, but it certainly isn't glamorous or exciting either. But I think every time I feel sorry for myself, and look around and try to find my own great story, God is reminding me that this is where he wants me right now; this is where I'm learning to be a servant, the last, the anonymous faithful disciple that he calls me to be. And until I surrender and submit to that, I will not experience true greatness.
Jesus' teaching is not just about my actions, but about my whole mindset - I need my mind to be transformed and renewed, so that I serve people because I love Jesus, not because I'm seeking praise or recognition. If I have nothing but Jesus (refer to philosophy #1), then he is the only one I should be seeking to please. He's slowly cutting down my field of vision when it comes to my motives - it is not about history or the future, it is not about what my friends think, or the general public, or scholars, or my posterity. It is all about Him - following him, obeying him, and serving and loving those He loves. It is about choosing Him in this moment, for the sake of eternity.
True greatness goes beyond the history books, and can only be found in Christ. As John the Baptist said, "He must increase, and I must decrease." More of you, and less of me, Lord. Teach me how to be a servant today, and to put myself last, so that you are the first in my life.