What Does The Bible Say About Servanthood?
The Bible has much to say about having a servant’s heart. One of those “teaching moments” that Jesus had with his apostles was when the mother of James and John came to Jesus to ask a favor. Here is the Scripture account:
20 Then the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus with her sons. She knelt respectfully to ask a favor. 21 “What is your request?” he asked. She replied, “In your Kingdom, please let my two sons sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.” 22 But Jesus answered by saying to them, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?” “Oh yes,” they replied, “we are able!” 23 Jesus told them, “You will indeed drink from my bitter cup. But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. My Father has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.” 24 When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. 25 But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:21-28, NLT)
Consider also the following passages:
Luke 22:27 ESV: For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.
John 12:26 ESV: If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
Ephesians 5:21 ESV: Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
1 Peter 2:16 ESV: Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.
Mark 9:35 ESV: And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”
Mark 10:42-45 ESV: And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Mark 10:45 ESV: For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
2 Corinthians 4:5 ESV: For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.
Galatians 5:13 ESV: For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
1 Peter 4:10 ESV: As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:
Philippians 2:5-8 ESV: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Matthew 23:11 ESV: The greatest among you shall be your servant.
How Does This Contrast With What The World Say About Servanthood?
“The world encourages personal ambition and pride. As the saying goes, ‘He who dies with the most toys wins.’ We live to compete and succeed. We want to be first. We want to be the boss. Our bumper stickers boast of our achievements. Our walls are decorated by our diplomas.
Is it possible that God desires something far greater for us than our own personal ambition? Yes it is, and yes He does. This greater thing that God wills is to be found in the most unlikely of places, a place to which most of us would never look at all: servanthood.
The world does not think highly of servants. To be a servant is to be in the lowliest of positions. No one boasts of their job as a servant. In fact, most people would be ashamed to be called servant. However, we do not live for the opinions or applause of man, but of God. Therefore, we must ask ourselves, what does God say on the subject? What does the Bible say about servanthood?” (https://www.compellingtruth.org/servanthood.html).
Here Are Some Real Actionable Steps We Can Take!
Leadership authority, Dr. John Maxwell, says that “to embody the quality of servanthood, a true leader:
1. “Puts Other’s Ahead of His Own Agenda….
2. “Possesses the Confidence to Serve….
3. “Initiates Service to Others….
4. “Is Not Position-Conscious….
5. “Serves Out of Love….”
He then suggests, “To improve your servanthood do the following:
- Perform small acts of kindness for others that show you care
- Learn to walk slowly through the crowd…. Make it your goal to connect with others by circulating among them and talking to people. Focus on each person you meet…..Make your agenda getting to know each person’s needs, wants and desires….
- Move into action….Begin serving with your body and your heart will eventually catch up….
(The 21 Indispensable Qualities Of A Leader, John C. Maxwell, pp. 136-139)
We can all probably think of people in our lives who have demonstrated the characteristic of servanthood. I always think of my Dad who selflessly served others as he preached the gospel for forty-nine years (1957-2006). He preached in many small, struggling churches and worked as a welder, to support himself as he preached. He was not one to get discouraged easily and was a great role model.
In her book When Character Was King, Peggy Noonan gives many examples in the life of former President Ronald Reagan that demonstrated his servant’s heart. Also, in an article titled, “The Quiet Grace of Ronald Wilson Reagan” by Craig Shirley and Frank Donatelli, that appeared in the October 19, 2016 Wall Street Journal, they give an example of his personal grace, “Over the course of his life, the Gipper sent thousands of letters to fans, friends and even opponents, many of whom remember his personal grace. During his stay in the hospital, recovering from the assassination attempt, nurses were astonished to find Reagan one day on his hands and knees, cleaning up some water he had spilled. The leader of the free world was wiping the floor so no one else would have to do it” (https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-quiet-grace-of-ronald-wilson-reagan-1476831665).
Serving others is a recognized step in the recovery process. In the Celebrate Recovery Eight Principles, Principle 8 says, “Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others, both by my example and by my words.” Step Twelve of the Twelve Steps of Recovery says, “Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” This step is based upon Galatians 6:1, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.” This is all about giving back; about servanthood!
I hope these thoughts will help you in becoming the man that God wants you to be. Thanks for reading ….