About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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Who Benefits Who?


In Luke 22:24 some of Jesus' disciples are arguing over who among them will be the greatest.  Jesus responds in verse 25 by saying, "the kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.  But you are not to be like that." (NIV)


The NIV says that Gentile kings "lord it over them."  The KJV says that they "exercise lordship over them." The word "them" refers to the people the kings exercised authority over.  We learn from history that the way in which Roman authorities exercised authority over their subjects when Jesus said these words was by harsh military dictatorship.   


Jesus goes on to say, "those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors." (NIV)  The word "Benefactors" is capitalized in the NIV, probably because it was often used as a title for a king, as in "King Henry".  The NIV states that these kings "call themselves Benefactors."  Other translations state these kings are "called or known as benefactors".  Whatever the case, kings were supposed to be benefactors, but were they? 


Kings had the title of "benefactors" because they were supposed to "benefit" those in their nation.  The reason why they existed was for the good of the people, but that wasn't the case in Jesus' days, and it's not always the case today.  Kings in those days "lorded over" their subjects in a dictatorial fashion.  Kings were the ones being benefited, not the people.  Therefore, even though they were called "benefactors", they weren't.  The people kings lorded over were really the "benefactors" because they were the ones benefiting the king by being forced into authoritarian style submission.     


Jesus told His disciples, "you are not to be like that."  (NIV)  Other translations put this even simpler by saying, "but you, not so."  That is to say, "you're not to be manipulative dictators like the Gentile kings."  As soon as Jesus says this, He shifts the discussion away from the Gentile kings and their abuse of authority to His disciples who would eventually become Christian leaders.  Christian leaders have one job, and that is to be "a benefit" to those they lead.  When this gets reversed, as it often does, Christian leaders become the "beneficiaries" of those they lead.  At that point, church leaders fail to do God's will.  They become like the Roman kings. 


In today's church, that often looks more like a Fortune 500 company than the Body of Christ it should be, we  need to ask, "who is benefiting who?"  Are church leaders benefiting from those they lead, or are those being led benefiting from church leaders?  I'm not anti-leadership.  I'm pro servant-leadership.    


Decades ago, my friend Robert Bailey wrote a song entitled, "Servant Of All".  The point to the song was simple.  We are to serve Jesus and anyone He sets before us at any given time.  The song did not sit well with our pastor.  He was in the process of teaching us to serve those in authority over us in the church, which included himself.  The Biblical mandate for us is to serve.  All of us, including church leaders, exist to benefit others.  That is what being a benefactor means. 


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