As Christ-followers, our destination is to become more like Jesus Christ. We really can become more like our savior as we learn to practice the spiritual disciplines or habits that Jesus himself practiced and which he taught to his disciples. One of these spiritual disciplines is the habit of service. When it comes to being a servant, Jesus is our supreme example. We don’t have to guess what true servanthood looks like because Jesus fleshed it out for us.
In John 13:3-5, Jesus and his disciples had gathered to celebrate the Passover meal. Later that evening Jesus would be betrayed by Judas, and the following day he would be crucified. Jesus was aware of what was about to take place, and in the midst of his impending betrayal and death, he took the occasion to teach his disciples a powerful lesson on servanthood. In Jesus’ day, hospitality demanded that when travelers came into your home you provide water with which to wash their feet. The one with the least status in the home washed the travelers’ feet. That is how things were done in that society. It wasn’t questioned; it wasn’t challenged. That is how it was.
And so, when Jesus broke out the towel and the wash basin, it was shocking. Peter questioned Jesus’ actions with bewilderment. In Peter’s world, and in ours, there is a pecking order in life. You serve those who are above you, but not those below you. Those who are below you, serve you. Peter was comfortable with that pecking order. Peter finally did allow Jesus to wash his feet, but not without an argument. You see, we stubbornly hold to our cultural views of status and authority, and who serves whom, especially if we think that we have some status.
Jesus abolishes that pecking order. He is saying, “Greatness in God’s kingdom is not defined by our position or status, but rather by our willingness to serve, especially by our willingness to serve those whom we believe to be beneath us.” To become the kind of servant that God desires, we have to adopt a servant’s mindset. And that doesn’t come naturally. There is a difference between choosing “to serve” and choosing “to be a servant.” They are miles apart. God wants us to choose to take on the mindset of a “bond-servant”: a person who out of love for his master freely gives up his individual rights in order to give full devotion to his master. That is the kind of devoted, humble servanthood that Jesus beckons us to enter into.
Now how do you know whether or not you have made that decision, to go beyond choosing to serve, versus choosing to be a bond-servant?  One who merely serves picks and chooses whom he will serve. A bond-servant is no discriminator of persons. He stands ready to serve all, regardless of race, economic status, or place in the organizational pecking order.  One who merely serves picks and chooses when he will serve. He serves when it is convenient. A bond-servant is willing to serve whenever he sees a need that he believes God is calling him to meet. He expects God to interrupt his planned day with service opportunities. He is flexible and available.  One who merely serves requires external rewards. He serves to be noticed. He seeks human applause. His staying power is dependent upon the recognition and gratitude of others. A bond-servant is willing to serve in hiding. It is not that he doesn’t appreciate recognition. We all want to be encouraged. We all like to be thanked. But a true servant doesn’t require human approval to remain faithful to his ministry. For him, the approval of his Master, the Lord Jesus, is sufficient.  One who merely serves is impressed with the “big opportunity”. The bigger the challenge, the more public the service, the grander the scale, the better the fit. The bond-servant is just as ready to serve in the small things as he is in the big things. He just wants to be faithful in whatever task he sets his hand to.  One who merely serves is affected by moods and whims. He serves when the spirit moves him. If he doesn’t feel good, or didn’t get enough rest, he opts out of service. The bond- servant ministers faithfully because there is a need to be met, and a commitment to be kept.
The exercise of no other spiritual discipline will cause you to have to die to self like this one will:
- The habit of service asks us to be willing to labor in anonymity. It asks us to seek God’s will at all costs.
- It asks us to be willing to set aside our agenda, our plans, when love of God or of neighbor demands it.
- It asks that we be willing to live for others, rather than for ourselves.
And none of these things come naturally. To take on the habit of service is to die to self, but in that death, Jesus tells us that we will find true life and fruitfulness. We will find what we were born for (John 12:24-26).
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
- Develop the habit of service by determining to be a servant.
- Assume a servant’s role.
- Learn more or sign up to serve others through TCC.
- Learn your Spiritual Gifts to help you find your best fit for serving through TCC.
See “Digging Deeper” section to improve your motives in serving.
TAKE ONE STEP
Each week, write down one doable concrete step of obedience, small or large, that you will put into practice this week. (James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”)