The greatest among you should be . . . ∙

The greatest among you should be . . .

Watch out! do not try to demonstrate how good you are in the presence of others, to be admired by them. If you do, you have no reward with your Father in heaven. – Matthew 6:1

Luke 22:25-27

 25 Jesus told them, In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’

 26 But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.

 27 Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.

In 1999, Pay It Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde was published. It was later adapted into a film of the same name in 2000. It presents what was then a novel idea. When you are a recipient of a good deed, you should pay it forward to others. Each recipient should assume a personal responsibility to do three good deeds for others. This would create a 3 to 1 ratio of doing good to others that would spread geometrically. The practice of helping one another could make the world a kinder, more caring, and helpful place.

There are many different kinds of reinforcement. Social reinforcers are one of the most common types of reinforcement. They are experienced almost daily. Social reinforcements involve such things as smiles, acceptance, praise, acclaim, and attention from other people. Sometimes simply being in the presence of other people can serve as a natural social reinforcement (

In 1968, a notable study was conducted. It involved school-age children that spent very little time doing school work. Their study habits were below C-level. When given social reinforcement via praise and attention by the researchers for their study efforts, it had a dramatic effect. The researchers observed that the children studied much more. In some cases, their study time almost doubled when compared to what they had done before say changes go to sleep (Hall RV, Lund D, Jackson D. Effects of teacher attention on study behavior).

Many acts of human kindness have their own reward and provide personal, private reinforcement. They basically make us feel good about ourselves.  

Sadly, in our fallen condition, positive reinforcement becomes a goal in and of itself. We are motivated to seek reinforcement by getting others to feel good about us. Often this boils down to drawing attention to ourselves by doing good for everyone to see. Sadly this often proves to be short-sighted. We sadly seek temporal rewards disregarding eternal ones. The Lord Jesus Christ unequivocally advised against this. Ostentatious displays of kindness or piety are unfitting for the Father’s children. Children of the King are in the business of serving others rather than serving ourselves.

Matthew 5:16 Let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

Public acts of kindness are often precious. But when they are performed merely to obtain public recognition, there is no reward or eternal benefit.


Acts of human kindness and service should be Father-centered rather than self-centered.

Father thank You for all the grace, mercy, and kindness You have shown me. Encourage me to pay it forward by being gracious, merciful, and kind to others.


Matthew 6:1 Watch out! do not try to demonstrate how good you are in the presence of others, to be admired by them.

The Greek verb translated take heed, beware,or watch out is prosecho. It was used as a nautical term. It meant to hold the ship in a particular direction, to sail towards, keep on course. It came to mean to apply one’s mind to something, attend to, give heed to, or pay attention to. As a warning. It has the sense, “Be on your guard,” “Be sure that you don’t,” “Don’t ever,” or “You must never.”

In modern colloquial English, we might say, “focus” or in the immortal words of Aretha Franklin, “You better think, (think, think).”

Every child of the King should make our all-encompassing maxim: Watch out! do not try to demonstrate how good you are in the presence of others, to be admired by them (Matthew 6:1). It is incumbent upon us to be careful to do good in the right way, for the right reasons.

In Matthew 6:1-18, the word “Father” occurs 10 times. Good deeds and acts of devotion should be done for Him. We should be motivated by our love and devotion for the Father, not to be seen and applauded by people. Public recognition is one of the gotchas of religious service that may lead to distortion and sinful pride (Richison). Motives count. Good things can be done in the wrong way.

When good deeds are done, they should be done secretly not to be noticed by others. The Lord Jesus Christ uses hyperbole to communicate this idea effectively. He states that not even our left hand should know what our right hand is doing (Matthew 6:3).

In Matthew 6, the Lord Jesus Christ highlights three areas where piety and worship become distorted: giving Matthew 6:2-4, prayer Matthew 6:5-15, and fasting Matthew 6:16-18. He warns children of the King to be on guard to do good and do it for the right reasons.

Many children of the King are entrapped by the facade of the world’s servant hierarchy. The people in charge are to be served, rather than serve others. In the Father’s kingdom, the servant hierarchy is inverted.

Mark 10:42-45

 42 Jesus said to them, You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them.

 43 But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant;

 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.

 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.

As children of the King, we should assume responsibility to pay forward acts of human kindness. Our ultimate motivation should be to pay forward the kindness that we have received from our Father God.

As we make it our goal to pay forward what we have received, we should commit to an attitude of personal humility and service. If we aspire to become “great” we run the risk of becoming just like Gentile rulers. If we aspire to serve we can become great

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 1-05-2

© Dr. H 2022

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