Developing Servants 3
Seeking servanthood will result in unity among like-minded brethren in Christ.
Ephesians 4:11-12 says that we are to be equipped to serve, but notice what’s said next: “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (vs. 13).
It is difficult to be divided when we are all working hard to serve each other. If we all strove for servanthood instead of recognition, we could avoid the petty jealousies that come from feeling that others are more important or have more significant roles than we do. As servants, it matters not whether one is a preacher or a simple encourager. It matters not whether one is male or female, if serving is the goal. Servants who are immersed in God’s word are concerned simply with being the servants God intends, regardless of the specific tasks assigned within that context. If we all strove for love instead of power, we could avoid the problems that arise from thinking others somehow need to pay more attention to us than we need to pay to them. Service, love, and sacrifice are what all of us can supply, and virtues toward which all of us can strive.
When we focus on the specific tasks given to different people (preach, teach, shepherd, etc.), and lose sight of servanthood, then we start fussing and fighting over who gets to be the leaders and who gets the recognition. We get upset if some get to do a particular job, while others are relegated to another role. However, if we are all simply striving to be servants, in whatever capacity and role we can supply according to Scripture and ability, then we can move past the “some are more privileged than others and I don’t get to do anything” mentality.
The religious world is filled with strife over questions of the roles of men and women in leadership positions in the church. We see arguments to the effect that there are no real distinctions to be made. The mistake here is thinking that the one who preaches is somehow more important than others who do other work like influencing children to serve the Lord. Nothing could be further from the truth, and if we understand biblical servanthood, we can avoid the divisions that come from seeking power over others and misunderstanding how roles work within the body of Christ.
The elder is as much a servant as is the sister who writes cards and sits with the sick. The preacher is as much as a servant as is the one who quietly prepares the Lord’s Supper or makes a point to be an encourager to those who are struggling. The one who quietly visits others is as important as the one who stands in front of an audience to teach. The woman who perseveres in raising godly children is as important, if not more so, than the man who can pray in public or give a talk before the Lord’s Supper. We need to quit elevating what people do publicly to be more important than what people do quietly and privately before the Lord. We need to quit thinking that those whose names appear in leadership roles are more important than the ones who will never stand before an audience or have their names mentioned in public service.
All of these roles are needed, and all stand before God as servants fulfilling their stewardships. None is more honored than the other; none is more important than the other, and none are rewarded more than another. It’s only when we elevate certain roles as being more significant and privileged that we set ourselves up for the bickering, jealousies, and divisions that will follow (see 1 Cor. 12:4ff; Rom. 12:4-5).
Think about this with respect to the home. If we are serving one another, sacrificing for each other, loving as Christ loves, will we ever see the divorces and the broken homes? If we strove for servanthood over recognition and power, how will this transform our homes? A home modeled on the sacrificial service of Jesus will be a united home.
Jesus taught, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all,” and demonstrated this with a child (Mark 9:33-37). “Servant of all” should be our goal, and this can be accomplished behind the scenes as much as in front of the crowds. Put it in perspective. If we are going to think in terms of “out-doing” one another, then let it not be in who gets the recognition and power; rather, let it be in giving one another preference in honor (cf. Rom 12:10). Let it be in who gets to serve others without needing to be recognized for it.
Love, sacrifice, and servanthood are all integrally tied together. What we owe toward others is love, which requires the heart of a servant. Yet this should not surprise Christians who understand that our Lord, whom we are seeking to imitate, demonstrated the true heart of the Servant.