Servanthood—What does the Bible say? What does the Bible say about being a servant?
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.
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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?
At creation, part of God's intention for mankind was to serve Him and to help each other (Genesis 2:15; Genesis 2:18). In the beginning, service to God and one another was perfect and joyful. However, after man's disobedience, death entered the world (Genesis 2:17) and service became painful and grievous (Genesis 3:16–19). To remedy man's sorrowful predicament and restore mankind to Himself, God promised to send a Savior (Genesis 3:15). Jesus came as the Suffering Servant to fulfill what mankind could not. Christ suffered the pain and penalty which our sins deserve (Isaiah 53). Therefore, God bestowed on Jesus Christ the title, “My Chosen Servant” (Matthew 12:18). If Jesus, who is the very radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature (Hebrews 1:3) was not ashamed to be called servant, how can sinful man such as we despise that role?
Christ not only died for our sins, but He lived to serve both God and man. Jesus submitted His will to the will of the Father (John 4:34; Matthew 26:39). Jesus served the Father by serving mankind. Lest any of us should think we are of too high a station to serve our fellow man, we would do well to look to the example of Christ. Jesus Christ, through whom and for whom the entire universe was created (Colossians 1:15–17), left His glorious throne in heaven to serve sinful man. Christ did not limit His service to mighty miraculous acts such as healing the sick and raising the dead, but condescended to the lowest menial tasks such as the washing of His disciples' feet (John 13:1–20).
Perhaps no Scripture verses capture both the servant-heart of Christ and the command that we follow in the footsteps of servanthood better than Philippians 2:3–8: "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 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 emptied himself, by 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."
It should be pointed out that serving others does necessarily equate to pleasing them. Jesus spoke the truth even when it was unpopular (John 18:37–38), He rebuked the self-righteous Pharisees (Matthew 23), He proclaimed grave warnings to those who would refuse to repent and believe in Him (John 3:18; Matthew 10:28). At times, He had to rebuke His own disciples (Matthew 16:23). Whenever there is a conflict between pleasing God and pleasing man, we must always choose to please God (Galatians 1:10). We offer no worthy service to man by disobeying God.
Our service to God and man is not to be performed in a spirit of grumbling and complaining, but cheerfully and out of love (2 Corinthians 9:7). Love and sacrifice are wedded in the Scriptures (James 2:15–16). God commands us in His Word not to love in mere talk or word, but both in deed and in truth (1 John 3:17–18).
God has not left us to serve Him in our own strength or power. He has given us His Holy Spirit to empower us and gift us for service (1 Corinthians 12:4–11; Philippians 4:3). God has promised that He will reward our service to Him (James 1:12; 2 Timothy 4:8; Matthew 6:19–20). Those who seek to be last and the servant of all will be called first in the kingdom of heaven (Mark 9:33–35). Jesus Christ is the prime example of this principle. He is God's "Chosen Servant" and His name will be eternally praised above all others.
Philippians 2:9–11 says, "Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
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