He must become greater; we must become less.
“Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” –Francis Chan
We live in a world that constantly markets good things. Success, popularity, and money, just to name a few. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with any of those things, they certainly aren’t suitable foundations upon which a life can be built.
Before Jesus began His public ministry, John the Baptist was growing in both success and popularity. He was proclaiming a message, and people were responding in large numbers. Crowds began to gather and follow him around.
However, once Jesus came on the scene, some people who had been following John actually left him to follow Jesus. This didn’t escape the notice of John’s inner circle, who interpreted this as a ministerial failure:
“John, don’t you understand what’s happening? You’re successful – people are responding to your message! But now people are leaving you to follow Jesus. Do something! Your popularity and success are at stake!”
John’s response provides a glimpse into his heart’s motivation, a stark contrast from the focus of his friends: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
John wasn’t enthralled with the praise of men or devastated with their desertion; either way – popular or unpopular, successful or a failure, rich or poor, well-liked or despised – his focus was on pointing others to Jesus.
The aim of John’s life was to proclaim Jesus, viewing his circumstances as a platform from which he could re-direct the gaze of his audience. He set the stage and drew a crowd. But at the critical moment, when the spotlight flickered on, John knew in his heart where he rightfully belonged. Figuratively, he pushed Jesus into the spotlight and was content to slip behind the curtain. He had done his job.
It has been said that “The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.” To spend our lives on good things might mean missing out on giving ourselves away for the greatest thing – knowing Jesus and making Him known.
Let us with dignity and joy follow the example of John, content to sink into obscurity as the name of Jesus grows increasingly cherished in our particular spheres of influence.
He must become greater, we must become less.
Written by: Abbey Le Roy, MA in Theological Studies from CIU's Seminary and School of Ministry
"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11