Servant of All

If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all. (Mark 9:35)

Friedrich Nietzsche can't be blamed for the Holocaust just because Hitler admired his philosophy, any more than you can blame the Beatles just because Charles Manson was inspired by their music.  Still, it's not hard to see why Hitler was drawn to Nietzsche's ideas.   For Nietzsche, life is a struggle in which the strong dominate the weak.  There are no overriding moral imperatives, only the conflicting moralities of masters and slaves.   The masters are beyond conventional notions of good and evil; they make their own rules in accordance with their natural will to power.  Slaves value the Christian virtues of kindness, humility and submissiveness to authority because these qualities are useful to their survival in their powerless condition.  Nietzsche regarded Christianity as a double-edged sword that aided the strong in subjugating the weak but could also artificially constrain their dominance.

Nietzsche may have been right about Christianity, although not necessarily in the way he imagined.  Certainly there has been nothing servile about the princes of the church, who have generally disported themselves in a manner befitting their august rank.  Yet when it comes to masters and slaves, there is little doubt where Jesus' sympathies lay.  When his disciples began jockeying for position, he told them they should not lord it over one another like the gentiles but become like slaves. 

If by this Jesus meant his disciples should knuckle under to authority, he did not always practice what he preached.  Noteworthy in this regard was his confrontation with the money changers at the temple in Jerusalem.  He overturned their tables and drove them away with a whip.  He was not inclined to defer to anyone, least of all the devil, who promised Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if only he would fall down and worship him.  Jesus told him to get lost.

It's important to listen carefully to what Jesus actually said to his disciples when he tried to dissuade them from jockeying for position.  He didn't tell them to become like slaves because slavery was good for the soul.  He told them if they wanted to be first they must become like slaves.  This was Jesus' little secret.  If you want to gain mastery over life, you must learn to become its servant in every situation.  He said this knowing it was the one thing the devil and his minions were absolutely unprepared to do -- and so the kingdom of God would forever be denied them.

Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals
Matthew 20:25-27
Matthew 4:8-10

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