The Privilege of Being a Servant

Do you ever think about what a privilege it is to be a servant? Maybe in abstract terms, but we don’t generally consider it an honor being someone’s servant. Here’s a quick way to check your attitude: how do feel about your job, especially on a really bad day? Moms and dads, what are you thinking when you have to clean up after a sick child? How do you feel when someone asks you to do something for the hundredth time?  What if they’re not very nice about it? Face it; we don’t like being treated like servants or slaves.

But Christian, do you realize the highest compliment Jesus can pay you is to call you a servant? Consider the following:

Matthew 20:25-27
25  But Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and the men of high position exercise power over them.
26  It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,
27  and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave;

Matthew 23:11-12
11  The greatest among you will be your servant.
12  Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

In Matthew 25:14-30 is a parable about three servants (here translated as slaves) who were each given a certain number of ‘talents’, or measures of silver, before the master left on a journey. Upon his return, the master calls each of them to give an account of how they used the talents. Those with five and two talents put theirs to work and doubled their wealth. For that their master told them, “Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy!”  They were still slaves but they fulfilled the expectation of their master. As a result, they earned their master’s praise. In contrast, the slave who buried his (out of fear or laziness) was condemned for not making use of the one talent he had.

We are never more like Jesus than when we serve another. There is no other capacity where we more perfectly reflect the image of Christ than in faithful and loving service. We speak of being “called” to preach or be a praise leader or some other office seen as esteemed. But there is one office to which we are all called, and that is a servant of Christ. Christ said of himself, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.” It’s why we are told to be ‘living sacrifices’ in Romans 12; it’s the perfect representation of our Lord.

We understand it is God’s grace as expressed through the blood of Christ that grants us salvation. But we also need to understand that while grace is an unearned gift, it is not without a price and an expectation. Jesus gave every ounce of himself to pay for the gift. The expectation is we surrender every bit of ourselves to him in return. His requirements for discipleship are stringent: deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow Him. Our love for anyone or anything else must seem as hatred in comparison to our love for him. We become his possessions; his servants, his slaves.

At the end of Matthew 25, Jesus tells a parable about the final judgment. The story tells, not the reason why some are saved and others are not, but how Christ distinguishes those who are his from those who are not.

34  Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
35  For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;
36  I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you took care of Me; I was in prison and you visited Me.’
37  “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink?
38  When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You?
39  When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’
40  “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’
41  Then He will also say to those on the left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels!
42  For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink;
43  I was a stranger and you didn’t take Me in; I was naked and you didn’t clothe Me, sick and in prison and you didn’t take care of Me.’
44  “Then they too will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or without clothes, or sick, or in prison, and not help You?’
45  “Then He will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me either.’
46  “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

The Lord we follow was first and foremost a servant. There is no greater honor than for us to be the same.