“The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” — Matthew 23:11-12
Sacrifice for the Team
During last year’s MLB playoff series between the St. Lous Cardinals and Atlanta Braves, Matt Carpenter of the Cardinals showed an incredible gesture of team spirit that few noticed at the time. In Game 5 of a very tight series, the Cardinals put up a surprisingly historic 10 runs in the first inning, giving them an insurmountable lead that eventually earned them a 13-1 victory and advanced them to the next round of the playoffs.
After putting so many runs on the board early, Carpenter — a longtime veteran of the team — went to his manager and suggested he be removed from the game. He wasn’t hurt, was playing well, and there was no need for him to not play; however, his reason went deeper. He pointed out a younger player that needed some innings and voluntarily asked the manager to instead give the young guy some playing time since the lead was so big. The manager made the switch soon after. Most people just noticed Carpenter had left the game, but it wasn’t until later that people learned the reason why and proceeded to commend him for his gesture.
In all team sports, it is widely acknowledged that sacrifice is an important part of team spirit and competitive excellence. The willingness to put the best interest of the whole above yourself is vital if the team is going to benefit moving forward. But for the Christian athlete, this concept is even more necessary because Christ Himself was the ultimate picture of sacrifice, and we as believers are His followers and representatives here on earth.
Jesus had to teach His disciples a great lesson in this when they were having an argument among themselves about who would one day be the greatest in Christ’s Kingdom. They had yet to understand that His Kingdom would be different than anything they expected. He told them that, in the ways of the Gospel, the greatest would be a servant and that humility would be the prime ornament of a Christian (Matthew 23:11-12). Paul echoed this truth when he warned the Roman believers later to not think of themselves more highly than they ought to (Romans 12:3), but to bear with one another and not to please themselves (Romans 15:1). Paul also drove this home to the Philippians when he cautioned them to do “nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
The truth is, as believers, we are obligated to love others and sacrifice for them as Christ did for us — honoring them, looking out for their best interests, serving them, and esteeming them more highly than ourselves. Like Carpenter, this may sometimes mean that we give others a chance we’d rather have or support them in an endeavor we wish we could experience. But regardless of who and when it is, God calls us to follow His example by taking the lower position for the betterment of all involved.
— Katherine Singer
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