Over and over in the Gospels, Jesus reinforces the idea that the Kingdom of Heaven is different from the kingdoms of the world. For instance to be great in the Kingdom of God, one must be like a little child, one must be the servant of all, one must be the least.
This is hard for us to do as human beings. We have a lot of pride. We don’t like to be weak, powerless and used. We really don’t care for the idea of being servants. Yet that is what the Bible calls all of us to do.
How can you tell if you have a servant attitude?
By the way you act when you are treated like one.
The first job that I had immediately after High school was selling doughnuts—I used to spend considerable time vending this goods from my small confectionery to shop owners. This to me seemed to be like one of the lowest jobs….I couldn’t even talk about it to my friend s in church and some times when I met them I would want to hide .My customers also used to think I am at their mercy and so some times they could be rude fussy and even arrogant at the way they treated me. This really used to get to my nerves some times I also had to develop some instincts like them to survive. Some days it was all I could do to keep from screaming at people, “Don’t you realize who I am? I don’t have to be doing this. I’m only here because I am waiting to join some college. I’m not just some moron you can push around and scream at!” But I didn’t. Most of the time, I just complained to my mother after the exercise and just let it go.
What does it mean to be a servant? Ephesians 5:21 gives us the Big Picture: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
What a short verse, but that says so much. How much trouble, hurt feelings and divisions in our church could be avoided if we all just took this verse to heart and lived by it? This verse comes before all those troublesome teachings of Paul toward husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and slaves. Man, those teachings are hard to swallow for us thoroughly modern 21st-century enlightened people!
We don’t want to submit to anyone or anything — not masters, not a parent, not a spouse, and certainly not to God. That’s our sinful nature. That’s the root of our sin. We want our own way and we don’t much care who gets hurt as long as we get it.
And so, serving others can’t possibly come from our flesh. It can only from the power of the Holy Spirit to love others. Why do we submit to one another? Out of reverence for Christ. Don’t think of it as submitting to your husband, or your boss, or your pastor, or that troublemaker on the worship committee … give up having your own way as you would yield to Christ.
“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.
“And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.”
The slave is a person who is not his own, but his master’s purchased property. And are we not purchased by God by the price of His Son’s blood? The slave’s only business is to do as he is told. This means, first of all, that we are slaves of our Lord. But to be slaves of Christ, He tells us that we must be the slaves of our fellow servants.
What does submission look like? How far does it go? Well, the standard is pretty high.
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!”
You and I have no choice about being obedient to death. We can try to stave it off, but inevitably we will die physically. Not so for Jesus. He really could have come down from the cross if he wanted. He could have commanded a legion of angels to save him. But he didn’t. So he could be our Servant and our Savior.
Jesus knew who he was. He knew that he was God the Son, second Person of the Trinity, the Word made flesh. But Jesus didn’t grasp for the honor that was due to him as God. He submitted his will to the Father’s and became a man and sacrificed himself on our behalf.
Our problem so many times with having a servant attitude is that we somehow feel that our rights will be violated. It hurts our pride. But here’s the thing: You are no less the person God created you to be when you allow yourself to become a servant. You haven’t lost anything. You aren’t less of a person. It’s your attitude, not your latitude.
When the apostle Paul was shipwrecked on the island of Malta, we read in Acts 28, it was raining and cold, but Paul went to help gather brushwood for the fire. He could have easily left that for the islanders to do — after all, he’d just survived a terrible shipwreck — but he made himself as one of them, not as a special guest. It’s a very concrete example of Paul putting others before himself.
Dwight Moody was probably the greatest U.S. evangelist of the 19th century, the Billy Graham of his time. Once a group of pastors from Europe came to Massachusetts to attend one of Moody’s Bible conferences. Following a European custom, the guests put their shoes outside their rooms to be cleaned by the hall servants overnight. But this being America, there were no hall servants.
Walking down the halls that night, Moody noticed the shoes. He didn’t want these guest pastors to be embarrassed. He mentioned the need to some ministerial students, but nobody wanted to help. So Moody gathered up the shoes himself, took them to his room and cleaned and polished them.
When the foreign visitors found their clean shoes the next morning, they had no idea who had done the work. Moody was a powerful preacher who attracted tens of thousands to his sermons. Surely preaching is a more valuable service to the people of God than shining shoes. But Moody didn’t see it that way. He had a servant’s heart, and whatever he did, he did it as unto the Lord.
Wherever we are, the work we do is a service to God. If we work at home, we honor the Lord by preparing meals, cleaning house, working in the yard and making home repairs.
If we are employed outside the home, we honor God and serve Him by serving our bosses well. In a sense, they are our “earthly masters.” It does not matter whether they are Christians or not, or whether our work directly furthers the Kingdom of God or not. It serves God and others when we do our work as unto the Lord.
Think of the example of Daniel and his friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They were taken into exile by Babylon and forced to be trained for 3 years for the king’s service. But they submitted themselves to the king’s training except in one area — the observance of God’s dietary laws. They insisted on being faithful to God and God rewarded their integrity.
“To these four young men, God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds. At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, so they entered the king’s service. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. And Daniel remained there until the first year of king Cyrus.”
Daniel and his friends could have seen the Babylonian king as their enemy — he had after all conquered their country and taken them into exile. But instead they used the gifts of wisdom and learning that God gave them to serve the king.
In our own lives, we may have bosses we don’t especially like. We may have to work with people here at church who don’t go along with the way we want to do things. But it is important for us to see God’s hand at work in these things. And to accept that he has put us under certain authorities for a reason. Just because Nebuchadnezzar was not a believer in the God of the Jews didn’t mean God couldn’t use him to carry out His plans.
So to sum up, following Jesus is to be a servant in whatever we do. Pray that God grants us the power of his Spirit to live as people who are not their own. Pray that our relationships with one another in the church begin to demonstrate this to the outside world. What a different face the church would present to the world. A glimpse of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.