1. An Introduction
For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 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, …
But emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
Servanthood is the state of being a servant. A servant is a person who is employed by another person in order to perform certain duties or is a person who is in some way serving the needs of others.
Jesus points out in the scriptures some truths about servanthood. He teaches that real servant leaders do not seek service for themselves; aim to serve others; do not propose to do their own will; do not promote themselves.
Servanthood is not about position or skill. It’s about attitude. Leaders seek ways they can add value to others, and the primary way they do it is by serving them. In John 13, the Savior of the world exhibited that he was also the greatest Servant of all time.
Abraham Lincoln is one example of a servant leader. Lincoln’s actions during the US Civil War are often cited as prime examples of servant leadership behavior (Hubbard, 2011). In particular, many scholars look to his preservation of the Union during this conflict and the freeing of the Southern slaves.
Jesus was a servant because He dedicated his life to setting people free. He set them free by healing them, delivering them, and by teaching them. His life was a ransom; He lived in such a way that when He encountered people they would be set free in some way.
A servant leader feels responsible for helping people learn and grow, feel purposeful, motivated, energized, and contribute at their highest level. It’s not about you; it is about your people. Servant leadership is about inspiring people to do noble work that calls forth the very best they have to offer.
God’s servant is to be gentle and patient when wronged and at the same time he or she should be firm and immovable on the truth, including “correcting those who are in opposition” (2 Tim. 2:24-26).
Jesus is the perfect example of servanthood. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he stresses that he doesn’t act on his own initiative, but that he is sent from the Father.
Having a servant’s heart means to not only put other’s needs ahead of our own, but to serve with the right motivation—and that is to put God’s will first. Rewards, recognition or even gratitude cannot be the motivation to live out true servanthood the way Jesus did.
What The Bible Says
The Bible has a great deal to say about servanthood because the central theme of the Bible is the Servant of all—Jesus Christ. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). When we give Jesus Christ His rightful place as Lord of our lives, His lordship will be expressed in the way we serve others (Mark 9:35; 1 Peter 4:10; John 15:12-13). How can we demonstrate love for God? Our love for God will be expressed in our love for others. “For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5).
True leadership is servanthood, and the greatest leader of all time is Jesus Christ. Servanthood is an attitude exemplified by Christ “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:6-7). The five words in the New Testament translated “ministry” generally refer to servanthood or service given in love. Serving others is the very essence of ministry. All believers are called to ministry (Matthew 28:18-20), and, therefore, we are all called to be servants for the glory of God. Living is giving; all else is selfishness and boredom.
It has been rightly stated, “Rank is given you to enable you to better serve those above and below you. It is not given for you to practice your idiosyncrasies” (General Bruce C. Clarke, USA, Ret). Let’s serve others by serving Christ (Colossians 3:23-24). God the Father has served us by sacrificing Christ on the cross for our sins, and we should serve others by giving the gospel and our lives to them (1 Thessalonians 1:5-6). Those who desire to be great in God’s kingdom must be the servant of all (Matthew 20:26).