Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”—Matthew 20:25-28 (NIV).
Have you ever met a true Christian servant—someone who served others without a second thought to their own needs? My 91-year-old friend, Josie, had a true servant’s heart. Last Thursday, she left this earthly home.
I never heard her complain. She not only exhibited all the characteristics of a servant, Josie reflected the Fruit of the Spirit. In Galatians 5:22-23 Paul lists nine specific behaviors—love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—that are the result of the work of the Holy Spirit in a Christian’s life.
I’d been praying for my sweet friend since learning she was on hospice care. Because of the pandemic, I wasn’t allowed to see her one last time. Before the assisted living community where she resided closed its doors to visitors, I enjoyed our visits. I hadn’t seen her since early March. Walking my dog one morning, I talked to God about my friend. I smiled when I said, “God, she’s a true servant. I know you know that. When she arrives in heaven, she’ll be seeking to serve others. That’s my Josie.”
What Does Serving Look Like?
I first met Josie in 2002. She and her husband lived across the street in the neighborhood I’d moved into. As we became friends, I was often invited to their home for a meal. She wouldn’t allow me to bring anything, but myself, to her dining table.
Josie was also active in our church and community. As a lover of gardening, she helped take care of the church’s flower beds. She also volunteered through the local garden club, assisting in the care of a non-profit oasis of flowers and trees. The gardens, open to the public, looks like what I picture the Garden of Eden must have been like.
Josie’s endless source of energy came from her servant’s heart. Even as her aging body forced her to slow down physically, that didn’t stop her from helping others. When she moved to assisted living several years ago, I was amazed one day when I had lunch with her. Josie was the oldest of the six ladies who shared a dining table. As her table mates arrived, she would often stand, using her walker, to assist them. If someone needed a chair pulled out, she hurried to their side. When anyone dropped silverware on the floor, Josie retrieved it. If someone needed something from the kitchen, she’s the one who made sure an aide took care of their need. That’s what a servant does. Puts the needs of others before their own.
Putting Others First
Putting others first in today’s world is not something we often see. In our “me first” world, it’s more likely to be “every person for himself.”
In Matthew 20, we read about the mother of the disciples, James and John. She asks Jesus, “In your Kingdom, please let my two sons sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left” (Matthew 20:21). Having no clue what was about to happen, she only wanted her sons in places of honor. The other disciples weren’t happy about the request. In fact, they were indignant.
Even after watching Jesus serve others, they didn’t have a clue. Instead, they all wanted an important position in Jesus’ Kingdom. Such is human nature.
Our Very Human Nature
Human nature, from the beginning of life, is to be selfish. Think of a baby. They demand we pay attention to their needs: feed me, change me, hold me, rock me. Yet, as a baby grows up, unless we teach them otherwise, they remain selfish, wanting what they want when they want it.
When God created heaven and earth, and mankind, he only asked Adam and Eve to refrain from one thing. Yet, they didn’t obey. They thought they knew better. But it cost them more than they ever imagined.
However, imagine what can happen when we surrender fully to Christ? Obeying His directive to humble ourselves and become servants, we truly embody what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.