Summary: This is a sermon preached on Martin Luther King Jr. Sunday. It deals with the desire to be first and the problems it can cause
Dr. King had this to say about James and John in his message the Drum Major Instinct “ Now very quickly, we would automatically condemn James and John, and we would say they were selfish. Why would they make such a selfish request? But before we condemn them too quickly, let us look calmly and honestly at ourselves, and we will discover that we too have those same basic desires for recognition, for importance. That same desire for attention, that same desire to be first.
Of course, the other disciples got mad with James and John, and you could understand why, but we must understand that we have some of the same James and John qualities. And there is deep down within all of us an instinct. It’s a kind of drum major instinct—a desire to be out front, a desire to lead the parade, a desire to be first. And it is something that runs the whole gamut of life.
And so before we condemn them, let us see that we all have the drum major instinct. We all want to be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade.
And you know, we begin early to ask life to put us first. Our first cry as a baby was a bid for attention. And all through childhood the drum major impulse or instinct is a major obsession. Children ask life to grant them first place. They are a little bundle of ego. And they have innately the drum major impulse or the drum major instinct.
Now in adult life, we still have it, and we really never get by it. We like to do something good. And you know, we like to be praised for it. Now if you don’t believe that, you just go on living life, and you will discover very soon that you like to be praised. Everybody likes it, as a matter of fact. And somehow this warm glow we feel when we are praised or when our name is in print is something of the vitamin A to our ego. Nobody is unhappy when they are praised, even if they know they don’t deserve it and even if they don’t believe it. The only unhappy people about praise is when that praise is going too much toward somebody else. (That’s right) But everybody likes to be praised because of this real drum major instinct.”
How many of you will admit to having the drum major instinct inside of you today? It’s been 35 years since the assassin’s bullet attempted to take Dr. King’s dream away from us. But if he were here among us today, I do believe he would proclaim that the drum major instinct is still doing us damage today. The insatiable desire to get ahead, to be number one, to display our greatness is hitting us and hurting us time and time again.
What if Dr. King could drop by for a visit to America today? No doubt if Dr. King did drop by America for a visit he might be a little shocked to find out some of the things that exist today. If we gave him a tour of many of the school systems that he fought to integrate, He would wonder in amazement at how segregated the schools have become in our large city school districts and inner suburban rings.
The drum major instinct has caused many people to pull their children out of the inner city public schools and either send them into the suburbs or private schools, so that in the day of tomorrow, their children can sit in the seats that John and James had wanted.