I caught the last snippet of a commercial recently where someone was identified as a celebrity landscaper. Well of course—why just be a landscaper when you can be a celebrity landscaper? The possibilities are endless: celebrity school teacher, celebrity pharmacist, celebrity construction worker. And let’s not forget the kids—we can have celebrity teenagers, celebrity children and celebrity babies. Our culture’s fascination with celebrity is one part intriguing but mostly just deeply disturbing.
Matthew records the story of a mother who wanted her sons to be celebrities (20:20ff). She goes to Jesus with this request and leaves disappointed. Predictably, the other disciples are resentful of this and things start to deteriorate. Jesus steps in and lets everyone know this is not the way His kingdom works (v. 25ff). His kingdom is characterized by servanthood, not celebrity.
Greatness as the world deems it may come as a result of having lots of followers on Twitter, friends on Facebook, or likes on your most recent post. It may result from speaking, dressing, or acting in outrageous ways. Or, it could come from being on some kind of reality show. In the kingdom of God, greatness has nothing to do with being noticed and everything to do with being the servant of all. Celebrities are known for—well, being known. Disciples are to be known for serving in as unassuming of a manner as possible (see Matthew 6:1-18). They follow One who “made Himself nothing” and “humbled Himself” (Philippians 2:7-8).
It’s ironic that in a culture like ours where being real and authentic are such prized values, we act like we know people we’ve never met or had a conversation with. More to the point, what we celebrate about them often has more to do with an image they’ve cultivated through an agent and/or publicist than it does with who they really are. Our lives are “deeply touched” by people who make their living pretending to be something they’re not. Let a celebrity die and many people make a bigger deal about it than when their next door neighbor passes away. There’s something seriously wrong with that.
I can’t help but think that all of this brings us back to community. What is real and genuine are those we truly know and are known by. Our friends, family, neighbors, the people we work with—in other words, our community. And what makes community work? If we think about it the answer isn’t celebrities, it’s servants. It’s the people at school who teach our children. It’s the people who work at the grocery store, the doctor’s office, or the gas station. It’s the power company worker who gets out of bed late at night to get our electricity back on. They may be gloriously ordinary, but we couldn’t live without them. What makes community work is a web of servants, not a gaggle of celebrities.
So you may not be the queen of Instagram or the king of Twitter. No one has contacted you about being on DWTS. Trust me, it’s okay. When we stand before God one day, none of that will make any difference. What will count is not how well we were known, but how much we loved and served.