There I sat near the front door answering phones and offering smiles as people walked in and out of the organization’s main entrance. It was my first job in Washington, DC, after having lived in Europe for seven years. I remember the “higher ups” who held all the organizational power giving me a nod, but never saying more than a few words. I was a receptionist, the lowest woman on the office totem pole. “They” were seasoned executives and we all worked together, serving the Lord at a Christian political organization. The power difference was obvious. I struggled to serve.
Fast forward fourteen years after I landed my first job and I find myself sitting in one of the most powerful buildings in the entire world, the US Capitol. My title names me as Chief of Staff, one of the “higher up” positions on Capitol Hill. When people walk into my office, they still smile, but they have more than just a few words for me. For various other reasons, I still struggle to serve.
The hierarchy scale of power that we all see, experience and try to climb with mixed motives in DC is nothing new. In today’s passage we read that James and John, two of Jesus’ disciples and close friends, requested to be Jesus’ “higher ups” and to sit at his right and at his left. Jesus, knowing the intention of their hearts, declares that “whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:44-5).
It’s so easy for us to point fingers at James and John because of their desire for power, but during this reflective season of Lent, may we turn our eyes inward. In a city where titles and jobs with power have extreme significance, Jesus exhorts all of His followers to take a lower posture—to be a slave and servant to all. No matter where we are located on the scale of power, may we remember that whoever wants to be first must make themselves a slave.
Lord Jesus, use this body to serve.