Do you have a servant’s heart? Are you content with the service you are involved in?
Do you envy those in Christ’s service who seem to have it all, who are visibly and materially successful, and who are popular with those they serve?
James and John wanted the best seats in the house, the glitz, the glamour and the glory without any cost to themselves, let alone any suffering. This drew the envy of the rest of the Twelve.
By contrast, do you have a servant’s heart, like Jesus? One of the most moving episodes in the Gospels took place in the Upper Room a few hours before Jesus’ arrest. Jesus removed his outer garments, donned a towel and began to wash his disciples’ feet. No Jew, not even a Jewish slave, was required to wash another Jew’s feet. Yet Jesus did it because he had a servant’s heart and he wanted to show them the full extent of his love (John 13: 1). As he had said earlier in his ministry, he did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). He did not regard equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing – emptied himself of all but love – taking the very nature of a servant (Philippians 2: 6-7).
Paul reminds us that our attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2: 5). Not power, position and posturing, but service out of a servant’s heart.
In Mark 10, where James and John made their power play, Jesus said that true greatness comes to those willing to be servants: that being first in the queue comes to those willing to be slave of all (Mark 10: 42-44). Surely this principle should apply to all who are engaged in Christ’s service? How quick we are to boast about our successes, our popularity and how much we are in demand, all under a cloak of false humility. We’ve forgotten that true greatness comes through sacrificial service and having a servant’s heart.
Jesus repeatedly calls us to live by the standards and norms of his kingdom as humble servants of the servant King. But how? Perhaps James points the way:
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you…Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4: 7…10).
“Lord Jesus, help me to put to death the pride that bedevils my life and service, and give me a humble heart like yours, O Servant King.” Amen
(Readings: Philippians 2: 1-11; Mark 10: 35-45; John 13: 1-17)
Painting by Sieger Koder