“He Must Increase, I Must Decrease”
Toward the end of John the baptizer’s ministry, his disciples came to him with a concern about Jesus. They said, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!” (John 3:26). In a lot of ways, we are like John’s disciples. We do things for the protection and preservation of our “tribes,” and when other “tribes” are having success, we become envious and seek to undercut their effectiveness so that our own “tribe” can take the preeminence. However, John’s response to his disciples was not to do this. Instead, he recognized the superiority of Jesus’ tribe for everyone. He said to his disciples, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
As Christians, it is our responsibility to lift up Jesus in our lives, not wave our own banner. Doing this takes humility because we must deny self if we are going to lift Him and others up. Philippians 2:3-4 states, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Why do we do this? Because this is the mind of Christ. He was the only one who practiced perfect humility. Lifting Him up means bringing us low. This can be challenging because it means that we must deprioritize our own desires in favor of the desires of others, and it is hard to tell oneself “no,” when strong desires are coursing through our being. To do this, we must focus the cross and let Jesus’ prayer of “not my will, but thine be done” inform our thoughts and actions.