Paul in Philippians says that we are to "have the same mind that was in Christ Jesus" who "emptied himself" and became a servant.
Why is it so hard to take the last place, to be the least among others, to become a servant?
I think a lot of it boils down to mattering.
We all want to matter. To be the focus of respect, esteem and interest. Thus we spend a lot of time trying to show others our best side. Think about Facebook, how we fill our profiles with happy pictures, notices about our successful children and beautiful photos from vacation.
And what if it is hard to matter in the ways our culture defines "mattering"? What if you don't have a job, don't have kids, or a spouse, or money for the Instragram-worthy vacation?
How do you matter in this culture when you have to take a bus, have your electricity turned off, or need to ask others for food?
I have another friend, in similar circumstances, who uses injury and accidents to matter. Any given week his arm might be in a sling or he might be on crutches. And when you see him you inquire about his most recent injury. And he tells you the story of the accident. And you listen because this is how he matters.
Occasionally I drive a van for our church Freedom Fellowship on Wednesday. Driving that route has taught me that sometimes we matter because of what we know. And even the smallest, thinnest epistemological edge can give you this sense of mattering. At the start, being new to the route the regular passengers knew the locations and best routes to get everyone that needed to be picked up. The first few times I drove I needed help about where to go next. People helped me and it made them feel like they mattered. They knew something that I didn't. Their knowledge allowed them to help me, placed them in a superior position.
But as I've driven more and more I need directions less and less. But still the directions come. I know I need to turn left, they know I know that I need to turn left, but I'm still told to turn left. Why? Because telling me how to go helps them matter. And they are going to hold on to that mattering for as long as possible. And I'm not going to rush them. Sometimes I ask for directions when I don't need them.
Tall tales, new crutches, giving directions. There are ways to matter to others when you feel you don't have much to commend yourself. But this isn't any different, just more transparent, than what all the well-dressed, successful people are doing at church when they visit with each other. We're all just trying to show off and impress each other. It's more subtle and more socially skilled, but it's all the same thing. We all want to matter. For one person it's the crutches for another it's having the Honors student or the new iPhone or the golf score from the weekend or the new dress or the witty remark or the latest gossip or the concert tickets or the new car or the fresh nail job or the recent promotion or the new tan from the cruise.
Look at me, pay attention to me, see me as interesting and worthy of attention. I want to matter.
And I do the same thing. I'll check my blog statistics. How many hits? Subscribers? Comments? Links? Tweets? I'll check Amazon. Book sales? Reviews?
I want to matter.
Behind it all is a deep-seated insecurity, a dread that if we aren't noticed that we aren't worth anything. And if that's the case, let's revisit Jesus' commands and example from above. How can we become insignificant and small--how can we rest into being unnoticed--given our massive insecurities?
Because I don't think we fail to follow Jesus because we are wicked and depraved.
I think we fail to follow Jesus because we want to matter.