But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Matthew 23:11, TLV
Shall be your servant. Context. This verse is part of a revealing and harsh moment where Jesus exposes the hypocrisy and corruption of the spiritual leadership of the Jewish people.
Other than the obvious need to expose sin for conviction followed by repentance, was there a broader scope of purpose? Yes.
A Little History
For thousands of years, the Jewish people were commanded by God to stay away from the pagans — the Gentiles, the nations, the non-Jews.
But, this was never intended to be permanent. One day, a rag-tag team of Jewish men and women would go to those very pagans and offer them them the greatest gift of all. Redemption through the sacrifice of the Jewish Messiah Jesus, adoption by the Creator of the Universe, and His very presence in us through His Holy Spirit.
This is why Yeshua was so hard on the leadership. The set time had come to expand God’s purposes to the world. However, other than a few notables, the people who should have been chosen for this task were so proud and profoundly misusing the Torah. They were ill-equipped to handle it.
No, it would take the humble, not the proud. It would take those excited to see others’ redemption, rather than fear losing power. Love first then discipleship, not the other way around.
Could Jesus be reprimanding us, too?
Could Yeshua be reprimanding us, too? To step outside our status quo and return to His plan and purposes? That leadership was called for service to others, not the other way around? What does that look like?
It will be something different for each of us. Responsibilities are different for leaders of families, congregations, children’s, men’s, women’s ministries, or corporations. However, there are certain givens, certain attributes of a Godly leader:
- Gratitude: when we begin with a heart of gratitude to our Heavenly Father and His Son, we remember we were never worthy of this great love, this great sacrifice. Before we ever loved God, He loved us. We were never deserving of all Jesus did for us, yet He did. He served the unworthy.
- Watchful/Observant: need will always present itself to the watchful and observant. Yeshua said that the Father knows our needs before it even arises in our brains. A Godly servant of the LORD can do the same on a smaller scale. Too often we either see the need and turn away, or we turn away so we don’t have to see the need. What if our Father did this to us?
- Humility: one of the “fruits” of gratitude is humility. Beginning each day asking our Father to show us where He wants us to serve is an act of humility. If we chose how to serve, it would probably look very different than what Father would show us. Too often we want an audience and reciprocity and pats-on-the-back for our service. Rarely will that happen in true service. God will get the glory.
- Commitment: if we have been called by the Holy Spirit to leadership — and say yes to that calling — we have committed ourselves to a life of service. Will it be rewarding? Yes. But, mostly, it will be hard work. That’s why commitment is essential, because difficult though it may be sometimes, it is an honor.
Our most vivid example of a servant’s heart is our Messiah:
But Yeshua called them over and said, “You know that the rulers of the nations lord it over them, and their great ones play the tyrant over them. It shall not be this way among you. But whoever wants to be great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you shall be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28, TLV)
Whether we’re in public leadership or we’re called to minister to those around us, having an attitude of service and devotion is our goal.
Be tenderly devoted to one another in brotherly love; outdo one another in giving honor. (Romans 12:10, TLV)
And, it should be noted, praying for our leadership — political, familial, or spiritual — is not only important, it is Scriptural (1 Timothy 2:1-3). Let’s outdo one another with that attitude of service and devotion and love.