The picture to the left is of a wood carving from Thailand that I purchased. It’s a literal “pyramid of pachyderms.” It also serves as an illustration of greatness in the Kingdom of God. Additionally, it provides some lessons for military leadership.
The first lesson is this: the Greatest (Biggest) is the Servant of All. In the Kingdom, and in the military, the largest and strongest bears the weight, carries the others, serves the others, and puts their needs before his. Doesn’t the biggest and strongest soldier on any foot march carry the heaviest equipment? In the Scripture Saint Paul wrote: “We who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves” (Romans 15:1).
The next lesson is this: the position of power is not for elevating one’s self. Instead, it is for advancing others, developing others, and fostering their growth. In the military the leader seeks to develop his subordinates. Therefore, that is a huge part of his or her responsibilities. In the Kingdom of God, pastors and chaplains must provide for the growth of those in their charge and create opportunities for ministry and for the development of their gifts and talents. We are told in the Bible that God gave to his church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers “for the equipping of the saints for service and for the building up of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12).
The third lesson is this: the guy at the top doesn’t get there alone. He stands on the shoulders of those beneath him. He rises from the contributions, lessons, and wisdom of many seasoned travelers of life’s journey. Alex Haley, the late author of Roots, had a prized picture in his office of a turtle on a fencepost. He’d point at it and say, “Whenever you see a turtle on a fencepost, you know it had some help. Whenever I begin think, ‘Isn’t it great what I’ve done,’ I look at that turtle and remind myself, ‘I got where I am with the help of many others: my family, my friends, and especially God.’”
Whether we are in a position of power or merely aspire to be, remember the words of our Lord. “Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be the slave of all” (Mark 10:43-44).
Dear Father in heaven, give me a servant’s heart. Let my pursuits of rank and power may be motivated by the desire to bless and help others. Enable me to serve the greater cause of my branch. Amen.