From Jim O'Brien
July 07, 2017

Hi Friend,

Power Over

A fascinating psychological experiment was conducted with people in the corporate world. Subjects were offered a choice between a pay raise and a job promotion without a salary increase. The promotion included an office with name and title on the door but no extra money. With few exceptions both men and women took the promotion. Researchers concluded that power is a greater motivator than money.

Dale Carnegie wrote that the desire for power is the single most significant drive of human beings. He may have been right, which leaves us with a dilemma. The most despised men throughout history are those who have chosen power at all costs and the men most revered are those who have sought service over power.

George Washington is called the "Father of Our Country" because he gave up power, not once but at least three times-at the end of the revolutionary war when he resigned his military commission and returned to Mount Vernon, when he refused to be king so the country could have an elected president and again at the end of his second term when he refused to seek a third.

Maybe the greatest tribute to Washington came just after the Revolutionary War from his chief adversary, King George III. The king asked his American painter, Benjamin West, what Washington would do after winning independence. West replied, "They say he will return to his farm."

"If he does that," the incredulous monarch replied, "he will be the greatest man in the world."

Maybe the larger irony of this is that churches have faced the same dilemma. Church attendance is declining; the old mainstream denominations are dead or dying and the people leaving are saying they are tired of politics. Members are repulsed by religious leaders seeking control.

Even the disciples of Jesus succumbed to this temptation. Once the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus to ask a favor. In an embarrassing and blunt attempt to gain power, she asked, "Grant that one of these two sons of mine can sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom." (Matt. 20:21)

Now that's bold! It's also not Christian. Yet it came from two of the disciples of Jesus.

Why would they come to Jesus with this request? Well, the simple answer is that they knew Jesus had power to distribute to His followers. When He sent out his disciples on a preaching tour "he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases." (Luke 9:1) Imagine what it would be like to know that a spirit being must obey your word, or seeing someone cured of a terrible disease by the mere sound of your voice. The disciples' first taste of such power must have been overwhelming. The witnesses to the demonstration of these miracles may have bowed at the feet of the disciples just as they did to Jesus.

Psychologist Rollo May wrote that when men lose the power to love they seek "power over." Jesus once took His disciples apart from the crowd and warned them, "You know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them." Adam Clarke translates "They tyrannized and exercised arbitrary power over the people."

Jesus continues, "But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." (Matt 20:25-28)

The 6,000 years of man's recorded history have shown clear and consistent examples of man's desire to exercise power over other men. But there is one shining exception. Jesus Christ came to serve man, even to the point of giving his life. And the precious few who follow His example have made a significant difference in this world and will serve in the world to come.

Until next time,

Jim O'Brien