It’s that time of year again in the NFL. The MVP debate is well under way, and will be announced Super Bowl weekend.
Ezekiel Elliot is a popular name in the conversation. Tom Brady continues to play like his usual self. Derek Carr has had a breakout season. One could make a case for Matt Ryan or Dak Prescott. The number of deserving candidates make this conversation fun every year.
On the other hand, a once deserving candidate can perform poorly, putting him out of contention. Aaron Rodgers’ six losses early in the season may have hurt his chance of winning the award this year. Cam Newton—last year’s MVP—and the Carolina Panthers struggled all season long and didn’t even make the playoffs.
And then there are the surprise candidates. One ESPN panelist nominated kicker Justin Tucker for the MVP.
Whether we consider which athlete is the greatest in the year 2016 or the greatest all-time, debates like these never stop. We live in a performance minded culture that obsesses over who ranks number one.
The MVP award first began in Major League Baseball and in the National Hockey League in the 1920s. These awards were presented to “the player who is of the greatest all-around service to his club," and the "player judged most valuable to his team," respectively. “All-around service” and “value” play out not just in performance but in leadership and servanthood. The MVP doesn’t just possess good skills—he’s a player that makes his team better.
It’s fun to discuss which athlete is considered most valuable, considering the success of his team and what challenges they’ve overcome. But on-field statistics carry the most weight in the argument.
A famous MVP debate took place way back in the first century, when Jesus’ disciples were arguing over which of them would be the greatest. Most likely, they measured greatness by their performance—how many diseases were healed and demons were driven out.
But Jesus told them that to be great in life means to serve others.
He said in Matthew 18:3, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
The same story was recorded in Luke 9, which says, “For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”
Unlike the world’s definition of greatness, Jesus says that greatness isn’t based on who is the most gifted and accomplished. Instead, greatness begins with being a humble servant. Instead of ranking ourselves above others, we are to consider others better than ourselves.
We should look beyond just trying to improve our game, and strive to make others around us better.
Serving others with humility is not how normal people like to operate. But an MVP has learned how to put himself second and his team first. When we learn and that discipline in our own lives, greatness—at least according to Jesus—is on the horizon.