Jesus’ Example of Servanthood

Being a servant is as much of an attitude as it is action.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! (Phil. 2:5-8)

You can do acts of service and still not be a servant if your motivation is rooted in selfish ambition, if your intended outcome is recognition, and if your ultimate purpose is to benefit yourself in some way. True servanthood begins with selflessness, maintains humility throughout, and ultimately seeks the good of others which requires the right heart attitude.

Let’s learn what it takes to be a servant by looking at Jesus’ attitude.

1) Jesus “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, even though He was in very nature God.”

Having the attitude of Jesus means we will not let position, status, or superior qualities and skills get in the way of serving.

Servants are not status seekers but rather display humility.

2) Jesus “made himself nothing.”

Having the attitude of Jesus begins with a choice. He purposefully laid aside all the glories of heaven to come to earth as a human baby. Still God, He chose to grow and live as a man who would suffer a humiliating and cruel death for us.

Servants do not get caught up in a sense of entitlement but rather give of themselves sacrificially.

3) Jesus took on “the very nature of a servant.”

Having the attitude of Jesus requires certain heart qualities. He didn’t put on a front. It wasn’t a contrived effort on His part but was real because it was the essence of who He was.

Servants do not merely act the part but rather are servants to the very core of their being.

4) Jesus was “made in human likeness.”

Having the attitude of Jesus means we will identify with those we serve. Jesus not only came to where we live but became one of us.

Servants are not aloof but rather empathize and enter into the lives of those they serve.

5) Jesus, “being found in appearance as a man humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross.”

Having the attitude of Jesus might lead to doing things we don’t want to do for the sake of others. Jesus prayed “not my will but Thy will be done” as He faced the cross.

Servants are not self-serving but rather submissive for the sake of the big picture.

So much of the attitude of Jesus began with a choice … a choice to make himself nothing, take on the nature of a servant, humble himself and become obedient.

Do you and I truly WANT TO become servants … not just do what we think we are supposed to do?

Notice that the choice He was making was to put His own status and comforts aside to work for the good of others.

Are you and I truly WILLING TO abandon our own agendas, ambitions, and applause to build others up and help them reach their potential in Christ?

Understand that working for the good of others was marked by suffering, submission, and sacrifice.

Are you and I truly WALKING the same road Jesus did to serve others?

Being a servant is one of the qualities of a good leader.

4 thoughts on “Jesus’ Example of Servanthood

  1. Which is the most important? Jesus was asked twice, by two different men, the same basic question about which is the most important or greatest commandment in the Law. Here is how Jesus answered that question:

    #1 “One of the teachers of the law… asked him [Jesus], ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “ is this: ‘Hear, of Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than THESE.” [Mark 12:28-31, Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Leviticus 19:18]

    #2 …an expert in the law, tested him [Jesus] with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’” Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these TWO commandments.” [Matthew 22:36-40, Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18]

    But in contrast with Jesus, Paul the Pharisee didn’t know the greatest, most important, first commandment according to Jesus. Paul made up his own rule. Paul wrote: “The entire law is summed up in a SINGLE command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” [Galatians 5:14, Leviticus 19:18]

    And again, Paul wrote: “He who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not covet, and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this ONE RULE: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” [Romans 13:8-10, Leviticus 19:18]

    Jesus said it’s TWO commandments, with the greatest, most important, first command to
    .1) first, love God with everything you’ve got, and
    .2) second, love people.
    Paul said no, it ONE commandment- to love people.

    This is very similar to The Beatles- “All you need is love. Love is all you need. Love, Love, Love.” (In other words, the second commandment, the love of man, without the love of God. Love as me, myself and I define love to be, and continuously redefined by sinful men.)

    In essence, it is also the same principle as what Eve did in the Garden of Eden, forgetting about the Tree of Life, which is the first tree in the middle of the Garden, and instead referring to the second tree as “the tree that is in the middle of the garden.” [Genesis 3:3 & 2:9 2:17, 3:24] Kind of like the Pharisees with Jesus, who were pushing the false idea that we can consider ONE commandment in the Law, alone in isolation, to be “the greatest commandment in the Law.” Or like today, false teachers in the Chrislam – Purpose Driven – Seeker Sensitive – Emergent – Liberal – Ecumenical – New Age – world church movement pushing the false idea that the ONE RULE is “Loving God and Neighbor together.”

    The Lord God Jesus the Jewish Messiah, Son of Yahweh the Most High God of Israel, said: “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these TWO commandments.” Not one. TWO. Sometimes, Paul was wrong. Jesus is always right. I’m following Jesus.

    Here are answers to 2 common objections:
    .a) What about the so-called “Golden Rule”?
    Jesus spoke the 3 chapters of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7, including 7:12. Jesus didn’t make PART of this one verse out of context into “The Golden Rule” or “one rule.” Jesus did not use the term “Golden Rule,” it’s simply a tradition of men. The sentence begins with “So” in the NIV and Amplified Bibles, and “Therefore’ in the NASB and King James Bibles, which ties 7:12 to the previous sentences. So 7:12 cannot stand alone as One Commandment.

    .b) What about the so-called “Great Commission”?
    Jesus spoke the words recorded in Matthew 28:18-20, including “make disciples of all nations.” Jesus never used the term “Great Commission,” it’s simply a tradition of men. Yes I agree it’s a commandment given by Jesus, it’s not optional, and it applies to us today. We need to carry this out, with our own God-given abilities and talents, using the skills, and circumstances we have. But we don’t need to put words in the mouth of Jesus, we can let Jesus speak for himself, and we can listen to Him – and obey Him.

    Evangelism is part of the Second Commandment given by Jesus, to Love people. Evangelism is not the most important commandment, and it isn’t the entire Second Commandment. So if our priorities are “The Great Commission and the Great Commandment,” we have our priorities upside down and confused, and we are not listening to the voice of Jesus. Never mind what Paul said. Let’s listen to the voice of Jesus first, and get our priorities straight.

    The people who will protest most loudly against this truth are the modern “Pauls:” traveling evangelists, speakers, writers, abusive absentee mega-church pastors, Crusaders, and self-appointed “apostles” like Paul, who find it “profitable” to “be like Paul” rather than follow Jesus the Jewish Messiah.

    • Yes, Matthew Perri, love for God is undeniably the greatest commandment from the beginning to end of God’s Word. It might be said in different ways, but it is clear that to put greater value on any person or any thing above Him is idolatry and adultery. Throughout the epistles written by Paul, I also sense this priority. He might not always have worded it like Jesus did in what we call the Greatest Commandment, but he definitely puts Him first and foremost.

      Paul never said loving your neighbor was the greatest commandment. What he did say was that loving your neighbor sums up the entire law … something Jesus also said (Matt. 7:12). In Romans 13:8-10 he said that certain of the ten commandments (not committing adultery, murder, coveting, and similar commands) are summed up in this one rule. Notice that he did not list from the ten commandments those that related to our love for God (no other gods, no graven images, not misusing the Lord’s name, keeping the Sabbath). The context of these verse show that he was dealing with their human relationships so that is what he emphasized. Absence of referring to the Greatest Commandment does not mean he put loving our neighbor first and foremost.

      In the book of Galatians Paul was talking to people who were getting legalistic about the Christian life. As a result they were biting and devouring one another (v. 15) … what often happens in a legalistic environment. He said that instead they should be serving one another in love (v. 13). In that context Paul was speaking of the priority of love over the law. In a practical sense, “the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command” (Gal. 5:14). And, that is what Paul was doing here … getting practical with the Galatians. For, as the Apostle John wrote, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” (1 Jn. 4:20-21) That is similar to what Paul said earlier in Galatians 5 in verse 6 — “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” To those bound to the law, Paul was saying that adhering to all the laws is not where they should put their emphasis but rather on love. When you love, you fulfill the commands of God, as Jesus stressed — “If you love me, keep my commands” (Jn. 14:15).

      Jesus Himself did not always state the first greatest commandment along with the second. In John 13:34-35 He said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Why wouldn’t He have said, ‘if you love God with all of your heart, everyone will know that you are my disciples’ since that is the greatest commandment? — Because love for others is the evidence that you love Him (1 Jn. 4:20-21). Keep in mind that Jesus also spoke of love for others as that which fulfilled the Law and Prophets. In Matthew 7:12 Jesus said, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

      So really, did Paul make up his own rule? What Paul said might not be as contradictory to what Jesus said as it might seem. How much importance did Paul put on the greatest commandment to love God? In 1 Corinthians 16:22 he wrote, “If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed!”

      The bottom line is that the two greatest commandments Jesus gave to love God and love others are so interwoven that if you don’t love people (your neighbor), you don’t love God. If you truly love God, you will love people and thus be fulfilling all the law and prophets. That doesn’t lessen the top priority of loving God. It just emphasizes that there is a practical expression in loving God … that you WILL love your neighbor.

  2. Dear Ministry Tools Resource Center, Thank you for taking time to respond. Here is a follow up to your response.

    According to Jesus, which Commandment is the Most Important? This is a question of fact about the content of the text in the 66 Books of our Bible. It is comparing the words of Jesus with the words of Paul (and other men) regarding which one is the Most Important Commandment and which one is the Second commandment, which together fulfill the Law and the Prophets. (Not The Law the Prophets & the Writings, not “All Scripture,” not “The whole Bible”) It isn’t a question of men’s opinions about “what Paul really meant” or “what Paul must have known” or “what Paul was actually referring to here” or “what Paul was clearly implying” or “what we must conclude that Paul was assuming”, etc. etc.

    These lines of reasoning all go back to the false idea that “Paul must have been right and Paul couldn’t possibly be wrong, so whatever Paul was thinking at the time must have been correct, and we just have to figure out what Paul’s intended meaning was and what Paul was really thinking when he wrote these words.” That would mean that your opinion about the unknowable unwritten “mind of Paul” becomes the “Word of God.” No. Wrong.

    Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. The words spoken by Jesus, recorded in our Bible by Matthew Mark Luke & John, should be above all other words. This has literally been the Orthodox position for almost 2000 years. Paul is inferior, Jesus is superior. The words of Jesus are superior to the words of everyone else in the Bible and to everyone else in the world. Jesus is in agreement with the Law and the Prophets and came “to fulfill them.” [Matthew 5:17-20]     [ . . .]

    • Matthew Perri, you wrote that “the words of Jesus are superior.” According to Paul in Colossians 1:13-18, Jesus Himself is to IN EVERYTHING have the supremacy. He would not disagree with you on Jesus being superior to him. It seems to me that to continue on in this discussion, we would have to get into a debate about whether or not the Word of God in its entirety is truly the infallible, inspired Word of God or only parts of it. If all Scripture is inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16-17) then we must look at what Paul wrote as what God wants us to know, not as what Paul thinks. But, this post is about Jesus’ example of servanthood so I must allow space for anyone who wishes to comment on the post itself. Let me suggest you go to a site like Answers in Genesis which provides some detailed discussion about the Bible’s veracity, more than a site like this one can provide.

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