The image you see
Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty. (Matthew 23:11-12)
If I use BOLD or red font in my post, I am doing so because I want those particular words to "stand out". If I were to parade down the sidewalk wearing all black, emblazoned with all kinds of chains and tattoos would you think I might be trying to "stand out" a little from the gal or guy next to me? When a company wants to gain the market share of business, they spend a whole lot of money on trying to find the "brand" which will make them "stand out" as the one to trust. The purpose of "standing out" is usually to call attention to, think of first and foremost, be the "go to" in your life. Jesus tells his disciples something entirely different about being the "go to" in life - "standing out" really being a result of "stepping down". Most of us may not come right out and say it, but we hope our life will count for something when it is all said and done. We want some type of legacy to leave. In fact, most of us will say we want to be "known" a certain way right here and now, not just when we are gone from this earth. Sometimes we talk a good talk, but we really do not live as we talk. You have probably heard the expression, "Walk the talk, and talk the walk". I think this is the thing Jesus is pointing out - there was a whole lot of talk, but the walk was missing.These religious leaders were trying to act as some kind of "expert" over the lives of those who were "under" them in the community. In those days, the scholars were the "elite" - they exercised the authority over the others in the community. Jesus cautions against allowing any man to rise to this level - as there is really only one who deserves this position in our lives and it is God himself. I think Jesus was probably going all the way back to the Law of Moses and point out one of those Ten Commandments that referred to us having no other gods but God. Don't think for a moment that the religious posturing of these leaders didn't capture the notice of Jesus - he was all over their appearance of godliness without the heart evidence to "back up" their claims. In contrast, Jesus tells us if we want to "stand out" we need to actually "step down". We find strength only as we come to a place of admitting our weakness. See this similar connection between "simplicity and plenty". When we are willing to live in simplicity (sincerity), we come into a place of plenty (fullness and abundance). Jesus points out the beauty of being ourselves. To some, this might seem a little overwhelming at first because we don't really "trust" what we "are" as of worth or value. So, standing out as our genuine selves is a little overwhelming.
The moment we begin to trust Jesus with who we are (the real us), there is liberty that begins to set us free to come into a place of abundance. We may not be able to trust others with our "real self" at first, but when we find the ability to get real with Jesus and see he doesn't love us any less for who we really are, the easier it becomes to begin to live as our "real selves" out in the open. We don't need the "masks" of religious pursuit to hide behind - it is okay to be genuine. Too many times, people are turned off by the masks of religious people. They see the pretense, but not the reality of it lived out. What is talked is not walked. Jesus says we begin to exercise the greatest influence over others not in the pursuit of the religious "stuff", but in the simplicity of our genuineness of character. Seems contrary to what we see modeled around us, huh? People "campaign" for the spot of recognition - whether it is a political race, or the attempt of a company to get their brand noticed most as the one this world needs. All this really does is get a name out there - if the "product" doesn't live up to the expectations of the one "buying into" it, the word on the street soon turns to an account of how disappointing the reality of the "product" was. The truth is, we learn to trust what is real or genuine. We learn to distrust what is nothing more than posturing or pretense. Maybe this is why Jesus focuses so much on the internal character of a man. He was always pointing to the idea of what is on the inside being evident in what comes out of a man. Wanna stand out - then stand down. Be genuine. Get real with yourself, then with God. In so doing, you will begin to speak volumes beyond whatever posturing you could do to present any other image to the world! Just sayin!