The Attitutude of a Servant Pt 2
The Heart of a Servant Pt 2
“Whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.”
The disciples were in turmoil. The mother of James and John had requested that Jesus appoint her two sons to be the leaders in his kingdom. To sit on the right and left hand was equivalent to being second in command, for these were the highest positions of honor. When the other disciples heard of the request, they were incensed, wanting the same positions of honor. As a result, a heated debate threatened to fracture the disciples' unity.
In response to the rising tension, Jesus calls the disciples together to confront the crisis. Jesus reminds them that the world’s perspective is about position and power. Christ is not condemning those in authority; he is confronting the insecurities and pride that lead to self-elevation. These individuals see power and authority as something to grip with a tight-fisted clutch. They wrap up their identity with the treatment they receive from others and their positions of influence. The idea of the words used is that they exercise their authority over others for their advantage. Instead of caring about the people under their authority, they see them as tools to use and manipulate to achieve their objectives and goals. In the organizational pyramid, they stand on top and see those under them as their “servants.”
In response, Jesus inverts the pyramid. The words must have been shocking to the disciples. In a world where slavery was common, and those who were servants were treated as lessors and regarded as inferiors, Jesus’s words were surprising. The word he uses is the word “slave.” In God’s kingdom, the one who is the leader is not on top being served by others; instead, he is on the bottom serving the rest. Leaders in the world ask, “How can people serve me and make me successful.” In Christ’s kingdom, the leader asks, “How can I serve others and make them successful?” God values people who are self-sacrifice rather than self-serving. He desires people who are more concerned about the reputation and needs of others than they are about their status.
Today, we live in a culture obsessed with power and influence. The mantra today is “self-empowerment.” We want to be in control. We want to be the influencers. We want to be recognized and empowered to affirm our worth. If we are looked down upon, treated poorly, or someone devalues us, we feel angry and desire revenge. It is part of our human nature. The tragedy is that it even creeps into the church. Pastors see the congregation as tools to achieve the vision that enhances their careers. People clamor for positions of recognition within the congregation. We become jealous when others get the “Volunteer of the Year Award” while our efforts go unnoticed and unappreciated.
However, Christ even takes the concept of servanthood a step further by illustrating the depth of servanthood he requires. The statement is shocking in its implications. The God of the Universe, who rightfully possesses all power and authority, did not come as a majestic king in all his glory to demand people's allegiance. He came as a humble servant, continually sacrificing his comfort to serve others. This finds its fullest expression in the cross, where Jesus would give his life to redeem those who had rejected and despised him. While we get angry when people mistreat us, desiring revenge and holding on to our bitterness, Christ sacrificed himself for their salvation. His words on the cross were profound, “Father, forgiveness, for they know not what they do!” The mark of a servant is not just in what one is willing to do for others but in what one is willing to sacrifice for the benefit of others, even those who mistreat us. Instead of demanding our rights and embracing the mantra of personal empowerment, adopt a servant's attitude. When we become a servant to others, we obtain greatness in God’s kingdom.