Yeshua gave us the example of being a servant when He washed His disciples’ feet. This was not a religious ritual, but an example of serving someone else; serving in practical details, in something dirty, devoid of honor.
“If I, your lord and teacher, have washed your feet, so ought you to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you may do as I have done to you” (John 13:14-15).
We do not serve only because there is much work to do, but because servanthood is a godly character quality. There are always plenty of chores and tasks; however, if there weren’t, we would have to invent some in order to practice and develop this quality. The goal of discipleship is to be conformed to the image of Yeshua, to become “just like Jesus,” to attain a Christ-like character. Willingness to serve in the dirty details is a Christ-like characteristic. We can’t be like Him without it.
Do you know how to say “ministry” in Hebrew? The answer is: there is no such word! The only word that has close proximity is “service.” Originally the word “ministry” meant attending to someone else’s needs, but today most people use the word ministry as a combination of service and ego fulfillment. Our attitude should be: we don’t “minister,” we serve. God wants to separate our serving Him from our pride and ego.
The only way this can be done is to serve someone else’s vision. You will never know if your pride is separated from your “ministry” until you serve someone else’s. That is the necessary instrument of separation.
“If you are not faithful in what belongs to someone else, who will give you what belongs to you” (Luke 16:12)?
(Please re-read that verse.) Most people who come to “help” at a ministry say, “God has given me this vision or plan. Will you bless it?” However, the kind of language that would show a servant’s heart speaks differently. It says simply, with no strings attached, “How may I help you?”
God gives us visions and callings in life. Yet the biblical pattern for fulfilling a vision is: vision – death of a vision – rebirth of a vision. Joseph had a vision of stars bowing down to him. He spent 13 years in jail before the vision started to be fulfilled. Moses had a vision of saving Israel from Egypt. He spent 40 years in the desert before that was fulfilled. Yeshua said the kingdom of God is like a seed that falls into the ground and dies. After that it bears much fruit (Matthew 13, Mark 4, John 12). When a seed dies, the chaff is separated from the kernel. When our vision dies, it is separated from the ego attachment (chaff). When it comes back to life, it is pure.
God calls us to leadership. However the biblical style of leadership is servant leadership. There is no other kind. Yeshua told his disciples that the one who leads should assume the posture of “he who serves” (Luke 22:26). This could also be translated, “The one who leads should be as one who serves.” Leadership is simply serving on a wider scale. As far as honor is concerned, there should be no difference between teaching before thousands and cleaning a toilet.
In most societies, the one who serves is not looked upon with esteem. The servant is seen as dishonorable. Biblical values on this subject are contrary to the world system. Peer pressure and popular opinion will work against you. To walk in servanthood, we must go against the values of society around us.
“The rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them … Let it not be so with you. Whoever desires to be great among you, let him be your servant” (Matthew 20:25-26).
We are not speaking of the spiritual “gift” of serving (Romans 12:7). That is a special grace, a charisma, for serving. Not everyone has that gift. Here we are talking about the character quality of serving. That is required of everyone. Character comes before charisma. Fruit is more important than gifts. The character quality of serving is the basis for all other gifts and callings.
We serve people. However, we are not merely serving them as human beings; we serve the Lord through them. A wife submits to her husband, “as unto the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22). My wife serves me in a most dedicated manner. However, I know her priority is to serve Yeshua first. I come second. We have only one Lord.
“Servants, obey your masters … as unto Messiah” (Ephesians 6:5).
Our service is not dependent upon other people’s reaction. We have only one desire: to be found faithful in the eyes of the Lord and to hear Him say,
“Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21, 23; Luke 19:17).
Let us summarize these principles of servanthood:
- Serving is Christ-like character.
- We don’t “minister”, we serve.
- We serve someone else’s vision.
- We ask, “How may I help you?”
- Vision – Death of a vision – Rebirth of a vision.
- All leadership is servant leadership.
- Character comes before charisma.
Let us follow Yeshua’s example (John 13), strip ourselves of pride (Philippians 2), and develop this character quality of servant hood.