I admit it—I like a clean house. God has blessed me with three amazing men who I adore, but who sometimes become oblivious to messiness. This past Saturday morning I went upstairs and found that our bonus room had somehow turned into a fraternity house the night before! Blankets and pillows on the floor; Popcorn remnants on the carpet and in between the cushions of the couch; an empty ice cream bowl on the lamp table; and assorted DVD’s left out on top of the coffee table. Did I sleep through a party? As I began to clean up the room, I caught myself mumbling angrily under my breath, “Hmmmpph! I’m not anyone’s servant!”
As those words hung in a virtual thought bubble over my head, I caught myself wondering what Jesus would think of that comment.
We are called to be servants like Jesus, but in 40-something years I’ve not mastered that skill, yet. In fact I have run the other direction a few times in my lifetime. In today’s culture, being a servant has some real negative connotations attached to it. With that in mind, what does it even mean to be a servant like Jesus?
Perhaps it means giving up my own will and laying aside my rights in order to serve others, selflessly. Consider the following scripture concerning Jesus’ service:
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [Philippians 2:5-11]
Being a Jesus-style servant is not easy; and like many of you, I’d really like to be better at it! I’ll be honest with you, I’ve volunteered on my share of committees and ministries over the years, but there’s always some sort of reward or recognition that I get for this service. If nothing else, I feel really good about myself for being so…awesomely selfless! There might be a theological disconnect somewhere in there!?
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.
When I was in my early twenties, I was confronted by a friend who wanted me to think about serving as a missionary in Africa. I will humbly tell you that it scared me to death to think about living the hard life of a missionary. I wanted to tell people about Jesus, but couldn’t I just do it in comfort, here? Obviously, I wasn’t ready back then. In fact, I was a great example of what it meant to be self-centered, not God-centered. Thankfully, I’ve grown a little over the years. I’ve regretted (in some ways) not going on mission back then, but clearly God wasn’t quite finished working out my self-centered kinks. I still struggle with being more of a Martha; sometimes too busy with what I’m doing to remember to ask God for His direction first and then take the time to listen to His response.
As parents we aspire to teach our children that being a Jesus-style servant means to look to our Lord as our guide, our example and our strength; remembering to take the focus off of our needs and put others first. Jesus’ life was so full of beautiful examples of this: He healed the sick, washed the feet of his friends, took time out of his ministry to listen and hold children—and then He died on a cross for the sins of the world.
Small acts can have huge impacts! My prayer this week will be that God helps you and I become better examples to our children of what it means to have a servant’s heart. May the Lord use our hands and feet to make a difference for His Kingdom, and may our motivation be only God-centered.
Is there anyone who has inspired you with their servant’s heart?