Something about the Christian community that fascinates me is our tendency to call leaders and organizers of our churches or fellowships “servants.” Outside of the context of Christianity, the term servant has become associated with negative connotations, as people think of contracts, labor, and obligation. However, there is so much gentleness, light, and beauty in the term servant, as we discover how it marks the character of a good leader. So, what does it mean to be a servant? What does it mean to serve?
To truly understand the meaning of service, we must examine the most perfect servant leader: Jesus Christ. When instructing His disciples, Jesus said, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35). We may also remember that “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). Further, Christ reminds us to serve with humility: “The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:11-12).
Jesus served and died for those who loved and despised Him. A King washed the feet of His disciples and welcomed the meek and weary into His arms. Jesus is set apart from everyone else in the world by His divinity, His perfection, and His heart—which overflows with love. This is the key: serving is beyond helping someone; it is a transformation of the heart that allows the Spirit to fill your cup with ever-flowing love and empowers you to care, help, and serve everyone.
The concept of serving everyone, including those we despise and those who despise us, is hard for us to comprehend. By turning to Jesus, we can finally understand that our service is never for ourselves. When we realize that we are not serving ourselves but instead the Creator of the universe, acting selflessly and loving everyone comes naturally. As we humble ourselves, let us recognize that every act of kindness we give is in service and brings glory to our King in Heaven. Those who act with kindness to others yet seek human approbation actually act with self-interest and are not a true servant to all. A true servant acts with humility and serves only God. We cannot serve two things (Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13); everything we do is to glorify Him. We all fail to achieve this perfectly, but thankfully we have Jesus to lead us through.
And that is why His role as a servant has made Him a true King to us all.
Moreover, it is our innate nature to serve each other: we can each find so much joy from helping and caring for others because we are designed to serve our magnanimous Father. We deserve recognition for our random acts of kindness to strangers, but we will never be truly satisfied by any earthly gratification. Our reward comes from the mercy, love, and eternal life gifted by God. And He sees every loving intention you have and action you make. Any reward here on earth cannot compare to the heavenly riches He gives. Even Paul writes about how he is first “a servant of Christ Jesus” (Romans 1:1) in addition to being called to be an apostle.
So let us serve those around us, for “our love for others is our grateful response to the love God first demonstrated to us” (1 John 4:19 TPT).
Is it not exquisite how Jesus transforms the word “servant” from something so proletariat into something so beautiful and worth high respect? Now, let us look around, and ask, what we could do to brighten someone’s day or to love them more perfectly?
“Don’t hide your light! Let it shine brightly before others, so that the commendable things you do will shine as light upon them, and then they will give their praise to your Father in heaven” Matthew 5:16 TPT
Being a servant does not have to be extravagant: let us be a little more patient with our family, a little more forgiving of our friends, and a little more courteous to the stranger next to us. So when someone gazes into our eyes and asks where this kindness comes from, we can guide their eyes up towards the Heavens and introduce them to the true, loving, and servant-hearted beauty of Jesus Christ.