”We are there to serve you and not you to serve us,” Charles Zulu told his Luangeni constituents.
Zulu is right.
For some, what Zulu is saying would seem to be a contradiction in terms, what grammarians call an “oxymoron.” They believe that leaders are the ones who are supposed to be served. In everything, they should be served first and given the best and biggest share of everything – highest salaries, the most expensive automobiles, houses, and so on and so forth.
However, the best leaders achieve the most by serving those they lead. These are servant leaders. Servant leadership is a concept we encounter in the Bible as well, modeled best by Jesus Christ. Addressing His followers, Jesus stated, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). He preceded that by saying, “whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all” (Mark 10:44).
There is just one problem with that: we know God wants us to be servants – but we don’t like being treated like servants.
You will know what it is like to be a servant – when you are treated like one.
In Luke 22:27 we are reminded: “For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.”
The measure of greatness in the kingdom of God differs vastly from that of the world. Our society idolizes the rich, the powerful, the beautiful, and the athletic. We even make celebrities out of those who brazenly flaunt their immorality. The world claims it is demeaning to serve others. However, God’s kingdom completely rejects the world’s measure for esteem, giving the greatest honour to the one who serves most. The person who serves selflessly, lovingly, without complaint, and without seeking recognition is highly regarded in the kingdom of God.
When Jesus and His disciples entered the upper room, the disciples looked for a prominent place to sit; Jesus looked for a place to serve. As they awkwardly waited to be served, Jesus took a towel and basin and washed their feet (John 13:1-15). Christians like to refer to themselves as servants, but are seldom content to be treated as servants! They are tempted to adopt the world’s evaluation of importance. But when we look to Jesus as our model, we see that it takes a far more noble character to serve than to be served.
The world will estimate your importance by the number of people serving you. God is more concerned with the number of people you are serving. If you struggle to be a servant, your heart may have shifted away from the heart of God. Ask Jesus to teach you selflessness and to give you the strength to follow His example. Watch for Jesus’ invitation to join Him in serving others. It will come.
Who are the people you lead? Or people in your sphere of influence? How might you exhibit true leadership – servant leadership – by serving them, demonstrating how important they are and putting them and their needs first, even ahead of your own?