Men Who Crave Preeminence
ďDiotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence.Ē (3 John 9)
Faithful men love, promote, and serve one another. Unfaithful men serve themselves and use others. Faithful men seek to build the church and kingdom of God, preaching the gospel of Christ. Unfaithful men build nothing, and only seek to tear down and destroy. Faithful men promote brotherly love, kindness, and forbearance. Unfaithful men promote strife, division, and hardness. Let me warn all who read these lines to beware of those men who, pretending to serve Christ, serve none but themselves.
Throughout history self-serving men have arisen by whom Satan has attempted to destroy Christís church. They have ďcrept in unawares,Ē pretending to be gospel preachers and Godís ordained leaders for his people. These egotists are always dangerous because they have no regard for anyone except themselves. They crave recognition and honor; and they do not care who they injure or what they destroy to get it. If they divide brethren, if they disrupt the fellowship of the church, if they divide friends, if they destroy families, they consider it of no consequence. After all, no one and nothing is significant to the egotist except himself. Two examples of such evil men, held before us in the Word of God, are Diotrephes and Absalom.
Diotrephes was such a man. That little man, who lived nearly two thousand years ago, has many sons today. They are overwhelmed with a lust for preeminence. Like their father, they long to be first (not in usefulness, but in recognition) among the brethren. They want to be in charge. They want to be king of the mountain. They would usurp Christís place as Head of the church if they could!
Diotrephes so greatly craved the preeminence that he would go to any length to get it. Read 3 John 9-10. He rejected the authority of the apostles. He turned his back on and slandered faithful men, and did everything in his power to persuade others to do the same. He would have excommunicated the Apostle John and all who associated with him as vile rebels, had it been within his power to do so.
Davidís son, Absalom, was the forerunner of Diotrephes. He had a plan. Anyone who craves preeminence plots and schemes to get it. And the plan never changes. It is the same with all egomaniacs. Absalom wanted to be king in Israel. The sad little man convinced himself that he ought to be king and tried to convince everyone else. And he hatched a plan for stealing his fatherís throne and kingdom. His hellish scheme is revealed in 2 Samuel 15. It is the same plan used by such little imps today. It goes like thisÖ
First, the first thing the man craving preeminence must do is slander those who are obviously honored in the kingdom. So Absalom got up early every morning, went to the gates of the city, and passed out flatteries to everyone who came by. People he had ignored, used, and abused his whole life, he began to hug, kiss, and extol. Then, he would very humbly and with great personal pain tell the people how self-serving David had become. Then, with even greater humility, let them know what a great and good king he would be. All of this he pretended to do for the good of the kingdom and the glory of God.
Second, anyone who lusts for recognition knows that he is so insignificant that the only way he can get it is by tooting his own horn. So self-adulation is obvious in everything he says and does. Pointing out what a horrible king his father was, Absalom said to all who would give him an ear, ďOh that I were made a judge in the land, I would do everybody good.Ē This man who could not even run his own house was trying to convince everyone that he could and would rule the kingdom with wisdom, grace, and justice. Remember, he had been a fugitive for three years. When his scheme temporarily succeeded, as soon as he was made king, the very first thing he did was make a shameless parade of incest with his fatherís wives!
Were it not so common, it would be astonishing to observe that those who are quickest to tell you how to run your life usually have terribly messed up lives. Those who are quickest to tell you what you should do, often have a long history of inconsistencies. Those who are quickest to tell you how to succeed are themselves miserable failures. And those who are quickest to point out your faults generally do so only to promote themselves.
Third, those who crave recognition, honor, and preeminence always use people. As he stood in the gate, Absalom reached out to everyone who came by and kissed him. He had no real love for them. He had no sympathy for them. He had no concern for their welfare. Yet, he embraced and kissed them. Why? Because Absalom knew that shallow, self-serving people are easily swayed by a show of humility, sincerity, and affection, even when the showman has repeatedly proved himself an utterly self-serving hypocrite.
Absalom was, perhaps, the most physically handsome man in Israel. But he was the ugliest in character. He was the embodiment of everything evil in the nation: Saulís conceit, Nadab and Abihuís self-righteousness, Balaamís covetousness, Korahís presumption, and Achanís deceit. Yet, he conned the nation into overthrowing David and making him king, and started a civil war in Israel that cost 20,000 men their lives! Ironically, it was Absalomís own arrogant head that destroyed him, too. A proud, crafty, ambitious spirit destroyed him. When Absalom was dead, David was still king in Israel and his kingdom was stronger and better off than it had been before. ó ďThere must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among youĒ (1 Cor. 11:19).