What is messiah complex?

The messiah (or savior) complex is a state of mind in which one believes that he or she is a savior, and then carries the burden of having to help everyone. People who have the messiah complex think and believe that they are the hero or savior of any problem. They believe—even if they don’t realize it about themselves—that they are the star player who will lead the team to victory, the Einstein that will help others ace their thesis, the president who will bring success to a group, and they are vocal about needing to help. They think that without them, everything will fail, and with them, nothing can. To be skillful at certain things is great. However, to act like you are the only possible savior is the attitude of someone with the messiah complex.

We are all possible candidates of the messiah complex.

This complex can occur to all of us, even as we are being used by God for His kingdom. For we, who are used by God, are called and enabled to lead others to and do great things for Him. Though this in itself is noble, it’s possible that as we serve, we forget our rightful place. It’s possible that in all the things we achieve for His glory, we take the glory instead. And, in a way, our achievements make us feel that we are the messiah.

So, how can we prevent ourselves from this messiah complex?

In a Victory group setting, having a messiah complex is thinking that we have become ‘Jesus’ to the people we lead. To prevent this from happening, let’s look at the life of John the Baptist.

And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” (John 1:19)

In the same way that John the Baptist was asked about his identity, we will also be asked by people (or even by ourselves) about who we are in the kingdom of God. Here’s how John responded:

First, he confessed his position.

He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” (John 1:20)

John the Baptist’s ministry drew people to him. But as the people came, John clearly communicated to them that he was not the Christ, the savior, or the messiah. When the time comes that our small group grows and draws in more people, let’s lead them to Jesus, the Messiah, and not to ourselves.

Second, he declared his purpose.

He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” (John 1:23)

John did not only establish his position when it came to the mission, but he explained his purpose as the messenger and not the Message. Knowing that we are called to deliver the message and not be the message that will save others liberates us and frees us from the heavy burden of being a savior. This spares us from forcing the message onto others, or feeling rejected when the message isn’t received well. It’s not on us, but on God, who will work mightily on our behalf.

Third, he acknowledged his place.

John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” (John 1:26,27)

John’s growing ministry presented to him perhaps another challenge: how not to fall into the temptation of boasting about his ministry. When our ministry grows, it’s easy for us to forget that it is God, and not us, who caused this growth. This is why, at the height of his ministry, John described himself as a lowly worker in light of who Jesus is.

Fourth, he aligned his perspective.

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

John did not only profess that he is not the Messiah; he proclaimed the real Messiah. Knowing that he was not the messiah allowed him to focus on the work he was called to do, and that was to direct people to the real Messiah, Jesus. John called the people to behold Jesus—to look to Him who is the Lamb of God who will take away our sins. Like John, in order to keep people from looking to us to save them, we must lead them to look to the real Messiah.

Lastly, he led others to Jesus.

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. (John 1:35-37)

Ultimately, John’s goal was to lead others to follow Jesus and not himself. John made sure that the people following him would not only look to Jesus, but follow Him. The leadership we are given is never a means to get people to follow us; it is an instrument God will use to lead others to follow Jesus.