We all naturally like status. It's part of our nature. We can't help it. Yet, the question of who is the greatest has already been raised and answered. Jesus clearly portrayed those who choose low status as the greatest in his kingdom. Strangely, the disciples didn't get it. Not so strange, we also don't get it, really. Deep down inside we all still want status as defined by the standards of this world.
In Matthew 20:20-28 James' and John's mother wanted Christ to give her sons chief positions, status by this world's standards. Status-seeking is one of those fundamental lusts that we must overcome. I recently visited a factory outlet mall and was frankly appalled at the uselessness of fashion. People suckered into status were everywhere throwing away good money for clothes and accessories that gave them the "look" which fashion gurus have deceived them into thinking gives them status. What a sad world!
Mixing our lust for status and religion must surely be one of the most subtle deceptions. Britains did it, and Americans used to do it. What's that? Mixing Christianity and idolatrous nationalism began with Britains claiming the status of God's kingdom on earth and more recently among American Christians often takes on a religious form of nation-worship. Don't get me wrong! My heritage is both American and British. I love those nations, but there is a difference between love of country and one-eyed, blind jingoism.
What we see in egotistical nationalism plays out individually as well in everything from choice of car to house and the constant introduction of ourselves by our job status. Even at pastoral conferences an often asked question is, "How many attend your church?" Small church pastors sadly lament that when they say 30 or 100, they are often politely but quickly side-stepped by those with larger churches.
Status is a scourge, nationally and privately. I don't care whether we live in a Democracy with what we define humanly as relative political freedom or an oppressive Communist dictatorship. The saying of Jesus is true no matter what kind of human government we live under, "But Jesus called them to him and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.'" (Matthew 20:25 RSV)
Several times I stood at the Berlin wall and marvelled. There were guards sitting up in high towers watching me. Barbed wire was everywhere and I could feel the threat of death if I had tried to cross. At the same time, I saw birds flying back and forth without a worry or care. What a contrast!
Are we much different under Democracy? I frankly don't think so. Our nations also oppress and use authority to lord it over others. We are naturally arrrogant and superior about the status of our democratic traditions, our fashions, our job titles, our social standing, and even our church prestige but somehow I think that Jesus is not all that impressed. The values which we are learning, those of the kingdom of heaven, are totally different.