“But the princes of the Ammonites said to Hanun, ‘Do you think, because David has sent comforters to you, that he his honoring your father? Have not his servants come to you to search and to overthrow and to spy out the land?'” (ESV – Read the chapter)
According to the wisdom of the world, the best way for a new leader to establish himself in his position and among his peers is with displays of power and strength. Hanun was convinced by his counselors that in order to show the world that he was a king not to be trifled with, he needed to respond to David’s offer of sympathy after the death of his father by treating the servants sent to bring the message poorly and humiliating them. The message was: This is what will happen to your whole kingdom if you mess with me. His counselors apparently didn’t know much about David.
In our own lives, while it is tempting to similarly rely on displays of power or strength to establish our position and reputation in the eyes of others, there is a better approach. Humility. Humility and service are not nearly as flashy as the kind of displays of strength the world expects. But, they demonstrate a different kind of strength to those who are paying attention that is deeper and richer and stronger than the alternative.
If you are a leader, humility and service builds respect and loyalty, both of which have much deeper roots than the fear and awe sought after by power and might. This was the approach of Jesus. He came with all the position and power and authority and strength in the world and yet He never once used them for His own benefit or even to advance His agenda. He leveraged them for the benefit of the people around Him, consistently choosing love over reputation. The result, of course, was a radical increase of His power, prestige, and position.
The same will be true in our own lives. If we want to be great, selflessly serving at the expense of reputation and position is the way to go. As Paul said in Corinthians, this is the opposite of the way of the world and in fact looks ridiculous to the world. But it works. It works in a way that what the world offers never comes close to matching. If you want your legacy cemented in stone, give it away.