When Jesus delivered the famous “Sermon on the Mount,” he used a specific teaching style that established a redemptive dialogue with the culture of the day. He would take a common cultural understanding or a popular belief, and then he would set it against wisdom from the Kingdom of God. He would start each statement with “You have heard…”, outlining the conventional notion about topics like divorce, revenge, adultery, and so on. He would confront the popular notion by saying “but I tell you…” and slam into the assumptions of culture with the radical perspective of the Kingdom.
In this series for Echo High School, we have been asking the question: what would Jesus confront today? What are the popularly held values and beliefs that Jesus would challenge? What would happen if the Kingdom of God collided with our culture? What would Jesus say about some of the things we assume to be true or about what our culture values?
Fame Obsession – I could not help but notice they are remaking the movie Fame. Our culture has an obsession with fame. We see it in shows like American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, America’s Got Talent, and all the other spin-offs and copycats. We hear it in songs by everyone from Eminem to Miley Cirus. We witness fame worship at events like the Oscars and VMAs. We feel it when athletes pursue the best stats at the expense of their team. We are reminded of it every time someone else gets noticed for something and every time we feel less important than someone else. We crave recognition, fame, and notoriety. We dream about being “discovered.” We have all this drive and ambition to be the best, the first, the greatest, the most successful, and the most accomplished. This of course is not inherently evil, but I wonder sometimes how healthy it really is. This drive is what motivates us to do anything of value, but this drive can easily become about leading us to a place of power, control, or fame. This is where Jesus would confront this reality.
I think he would say something like this: “You have heard that chasing fame is a worthy pursuit. But I tell you true greatness is not recognized by crowds. True greatness is found in serving the least. You have heard that you should be worried about becoming something, achieving something, or doing something that makes you great and gets you noticed. I tell you to stop worrying about becoming first or becoming the best. Start worrying about how you can serve those on the bottom.”
Jesus was once asked by his fame-focused followers who was the greatest in the Kingdom of God (check out Matthew 18:1-10). Jesus told them that if they want to go UP in the Kingdom of God, they need to look DOWN. Taking a little child who was undoubtedly looked down on by the self-important disciples, Jesus said they needed to become like “a little child” to understand it. Jesus redefines “greatness.” Greatness is not notoriety, fame, or prestige, it is what you have done to serve the “least.” This passage has a lot to say about the whole “I’m famous but I don’t want to be a role model” nonsense we hear often. Most “famous” people, by the standard of this world, do nothing to benefit such unimportant people as the “least of these.” They would actually be in the camp of people that “cause them to sin.” Jesus’ answer to his disciples let’s them know they are asking the wrong question. It should not be a matter of “how do I get ahead in the Kingdom?” It should be a matter of “who should I serve as an agent of the Kingdom?” They are looking up, but they should be looking down. They are focused on who is the greatest, but Jesus is focused on those who are least.
Seriously – what would change in our world if a handful of people started pursuing service like most people pursue fame or popularity?
Maybe trying to be the coolest person imaginable is not the direction our lives should be heading in. Maybe what we need is some kind of UNCOOL REVOLUTION. What if we were less concerned about being noticed, discovered, recognized, gaining fame and popularity – and more concerned about serving others?