Day Four: The Gadal Factor
When the disciples couldn’t bring themselves to answer Jesus’ “What were you talking about?” question, He sat them down for a chat. “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all” (vs. 35) He said.
Wait. Did He just say that? Desiring to be first automatically places a person last, in a position of servitude? Yep, that’s what He said. And bound up in this statement, He implied that our nearly-universal human drive to win, to garner approval, is profoundly misled, deeply flawed, and dysfunctional. Nothing Jesus could have said would have more broadly rebuked everything we value on planet earth. The world says that to become powerful and dominate is a worthy object for which to strive. The world conflates fame and success! Our current obsession with social media likes and follows, and our inclination to compare our popularity with others, brings this into high relief; but popularity-counting has always existed in some form. Social media hasn’t ruined us, it has merely made more clear what has always motivated human behavior. We love flattery, praise, and applause.
But Jesus says, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you” (Luke 6:26).
The desire for supremacy began in the heart of Lucifer, who proclaimed, “I will be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:14). But He desired God’s power rather than His character. He sought the highest place, and every being actuated by His spirit will do the same. Consider this statement:
The kingdom of Satan is a kingdom of force; every individual regards every other as an obstacle in the way of his own advancement, or a steppingstone on which he himself may climb to a higher place.[iii]
If I live in Satan’s kingdom, according to his principles, I will not see others as children of God, to love and be loved, but as either stumbling blocks or stepping stones on the path to advance my own agenda of superiority.
We see this principle of self-exaltation in the prophecies of Daniel. In vision he saw nations depicted as various animals, each one striving to conquer and dominate. The operative word used is gadal, which means to become great or important, to make powerful, or to magnify.
Over and over again the word gadal is used to describe the striving of political and religious powers:
- Daniel 8:4: “He did according to his will, and became great.”
- Daniel 8:8: “Therefore the he goat waxed very great.”
- Daniel 8:9: “Little horn, which waxed exceeding great.”
- Daniel 8:10: “And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven.”
- Daniel 8:11: “Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host.”
- Daniel 8:25: “He shall cause craft to prosper and he shall magnify himself.”
In contrast to this gadal spirit, this striving for supremacy, we see the self-giving nature of the kingdom of God, manifest in the Cross of Christ. In contrast to Lucifer’s attempt to ascend to God’s throne, God “sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4&5). This life culminated in the Cross where He “poured out His soul unto death and was numbered with the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12). Notice the descending movement in contrast to the ascending movement of Lucifer and the nations he leads. The kingdom of God couldn’t contrast more sharply, in principles and spirit, with the kingdom of this world.
Joining that kingdom requires a change of heart. We’d only bring misery upon ourselves to attempt to be sacrificial without that change. So many import this gadal factor into their religious experience, becoming spiritualized versions of their old selves. This is how the church has become corrupted and Laodicean. Lest we bring gadal into our churches, schools, and homes, we need to, as Jesus said, be born again (John 3:3).
The gadal factor creeps into our lives in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Perhaps the most common manifestation is cherishing being right. When it becomes more important to win an argument than win a heart, when conflict sends us to a courtroom where we assign blame rather than a workroom where we work out a solution, we have fully fallen into gadal mode.
A man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor Proverbs (29:23).
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man (Mark 7:21-23).
- Has life taught you to value supremacy, or being the greatest? Where in your personal history did that message come through?
- Where in your life today is the temptation of pride the most manifest?
- What has been the fruit of striving for supremacy? Have the consequences been worth it?
Ask God for a change of heart from pride to humility, and tell the people you lead that you’ve done so.
Self-giving Sovereign, I am awed that You lowered Yourself to save us while we claw our way higher in selfish pride. Take the gadal factor out of my heart and replace it with a humble spirit. Give me opportunities to choose the self-giving, pouring-out way. Take out of my heart the love of power and replace it with the power of love. Help those around me to see the change, and to believe that You are working in my life.
[i] Matthew 17:22-27; 18: 1-20; Mark 9:30-50; Luke 9: 46-48.
[ii] Matthew 16:21-29; Matthew 17:22; Matthew 20:17-19.
[iii] Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 436.