“A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest”. Luke 22:24
Ego. Yes, we all have one. Some have larger egos than others. It is constantly cropping up in the New Testament. The above passage is right before the last supper, but the issue came up early in Jesus three years of mentoring the disciples. It occurs back in Luke 9:46 where the disciples got into an argument as to who would be the greatest. In both instances, Jesus repressed it and rebuked the disciples for their wrong thinking.
Wow. You’d think by the time of the Last Supper that the disciples would have “gotten it”. You’d think I would have “gotten it” too, after 72 years on this earth. But Ego creeps in and it is hard to suppress. We want to be recognized for our “achievements”. We want to number 1. We want to be “top dog”.
My mother had a saying that I remember to this day. She said that under their clothes, everyone has a tee-shirt on that says, “I want to feel important.” They don’t broadcast it, but that desire is there in everyone. When you make someone feel important, they react positively.
We see it in the Pharisees – they want the perks that goes with their titles, so they wore robes and spent a lot of their day being recognized for their outward appearances. But God doesn’t want outward achievements to control. He wants our hearts.
Ego creates a tension between our humanity and God’s eternity. If our humanity (and ego) controls, we can get out of God’s will. Some have described the word ego as an acronym for Edging God Out. Good stuff.
In Africa, and elsewhere, people want titles to demonstrate to others their importance. Pastors are not immune. They want to be called Apostles, and then Bishops. It’s a quest for titles to show how important they are. They are looking for self-created importance in the eyes of man, not in the eyes of God. They want the “perks” of their position. A seat at the front, rather than at the back. The ability to wear special robes. The right to put a title in their name. That’s what the disciples wanted – they wrestled for a seat next to Jesus so others could see their importance.
In the kingdom, eternal values trump our human instincts, but I must say that our “hard wired” instincts (including our ego) are often hard to change. What God is after is out attitude – one that flows from our heart – that sees being a servant leader more important in His kingdom.
I recently came across something that really made sense to me. It came from a book by Simon Sinek entitled Leaders Eat Last, and it describes how our brain works. We have two sets of chemicals that affect us. The first are endorphins and dopamine which he calls “selfish” chemicals because they give us a “high” for getting results. The bigger the accomplishment, the more one gets a dopamine rush.
The other chemicals are the “selfless” ones: serotonin and oxytocin. The former results in a feeling of pride when we feel valued by others. It helps take bonds between people to a deeper level. Oxytocin, on the other hand, helps develop empathy and trust, which also deepens the bonds between people. There is no rush as one gets from dopamine. Instead, oxytocin has long-term effects which is “the chemical manifestation of love.”
Ego thrives on dopamine – getting a rush for accomplishment and recognition. Being a servant leader – or “eating last” as Sinek puts it – involves loving others. You build relationships and bonds with others.
Which brings me to mentoring. Where does mentoring others fit in with ego? Well, I can honestly say that it is quite consistent. Mentoring the next generation is not glamorous. You will never see your name in lights nor get accolades for achievements.
In fact, you won’t garner much attention from our culture. Yet, your impact on the lives of the next generation can have eternal significance. No dopamine highs or rush is involved or needed.
I’ve often thought that mentoring doesn’t get much attention because some may perceive it as not being visible enough. Other ministries are more visible and glamorous. But, as Jesus notes consistently, your reward is not here on earth, but in heaven. Doing God’s will doesn’t mean that you will end up in a ministry that calls attention to yourself. Being a mentor means following what Jesus did.
I have met with many mentors in my life. They were intentional and humble. They weren’t in it for recognition. They were investing in others’ lives for their recipient’s benefit, not their own. They did it quietly and without fanfare. They meet in coffee shops, over lunch, or anywhere they can connect. They even meet on ski slopes like a friend of mine from Evergreen, Colorado, who was a natural mentor to every man he met.
Jesus inverts the importance of our humanity and replaces it with humility and servanthood. Our inclination is to do something showy and flashy – something that others can see. Something where our culture says, “Atta boy”. Something that gets a dopamine rush.
Jesus, on the other hand, loved the person who labors in the background without fanfare or recognition. He wants and needs people to work in the shadows doing God’s will in their own unique way. He wants people who see that their efforts for eternity will last, even if they are unseen by our culture.
When I call men to mentor the next generation, I am calling them to lay down their ego to a certain extent. They could be teaching a Sunday school class or doing dozens of other more visible ministries where they get recognition. But that’s not how Jesus did it. He did it one on one, initially with the Disciples, and then to the 72. His messages were life on life.
The challenge is to see the eternal benefit of mentoring which is life on life connection with the next generation. It is not a task for those who want dopamine highs for accomplishments, because the accomplishments that matter are ones that the mentee achieves, not the mentor.
MENTOR TAKEAWAY: Seeing God’s call on your life to mentor the next generation is not something that will stoke your ego. Instead, you will find yourself loving your mentees through their ups and downs and challenges.
FURTHER STUDY: Simon Sinek’s book Leaders Eat Last is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Leaders-Eat-Last-Together-Others-ebook/dp/B00DGZKQM8/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1489156646&sr=1-1&keywords=leaders+eat+last
WORSHIP: Listen to Kari Jobe sing I Am Not Alone:
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