The Good & Faithful Servant – Part 1

Let’s talk about servanthood. The idea itself has taken on a strange meaning in our culture. First off, the very word servant has a bad connotation. Most people have a visceral reaction to the idea of being a servant, even within the Church. The questions we need to ask ourselves are: is our reaction ruled by emotion and how can we work through that reaction with logic and reason?

Is Servanthood Biblical?

Forever, O Lord,

Your word is settled in heaven.

Your faithfulness continues throughout all generations;

You established the earth, and it stands.

They stand this day according to Your ordinances,

For all things are Your servants.

If Your law had not been my delight,

Then I would have perished in my affliction.

I will never forget Your precepts,

For by them You have revived me.

I am Yours, save me;

For I have sought Your precepts.

The wicked wait for me to destroy me;

I shall diligently consider Your testimonies.

I have seen a limit to all perfection;

Your commandment is exceedingly broad. Psalm 119:89-96

The Church, at large, holds multiple wrong ideas on servanthood. One idea is that the servant position is long gone, or irrelevant. People who purport this stance posit that we have been called friends of God.

But, do they realize that the one does not negate the other? The Bible never says that we are no longer servants when we are called friends.

The Bible gives many metaphors when it describes our identity in Christ. We are servants of God. We are friends of God. We are sons of God. We are children of God. We are Christ’s bride, but we are also his body. These phrases are all identifiers and metaphors meant to communicate truth, but they do not cancel each other out. (See the Psalm 119:130 principle & the Psalm 119:160 principle.)

Most people within the Church have a visceral reaction to the idea of being a servant so the questions we need to ask are: is our reaction ruled by emotion and how can we work through that reaction with logic and reason? Click To Tweet

Friend, Servant, or Both?

When we read what Jesus said to his disciples in John 15:14-15, we see the term friend and respond with, “That’s amazing. I’m no longer a servant. I’m a friend of God.”

You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. John 15:14-15

But the same Jesus, when he delivered the Parable of the Faithful Servant or The Parable of the Talents, used master/servant language. Jesus had servanthood in mind when he brought these stories up. Let’s look at the Parable of the Talents where he told us about the three workers who were each given certain talents. When the master called on them to reckon accounts, he wanted to know what they had done with what they had been freely given.

What have we been freely given? Grace and mercy. In view of this mercy we have received, we are to bring a return just as the master in the parable expected of his servants.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. Romans 12:1

Presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice is our responsibility to our master. And as with every responsibility, there are consequences to both good and bad management. In the Parable of the Talents, two of the servants brought their master a return and were rewarded with more responsibility and honor. But, the third servant kept his talent to himself, hiding it instead of using it for the benefit of his master.

While the first two servants heard, “Well done good and faithful servant” the final servant was called wicked and lazy and was thrown from his master’s presence. This is a powerful visual of the reality spoken of in Matthew 7:23, “I never knew you; Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.”

Let’s look again at what was said to the faithful. “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’”

Let me ask you a question, did the master address him as servant or friend? Of course, God can make us his friends. That is his prerogative. But by his own terminology, we are his servants. And this is the phrase we each long to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

We can be God’s servant and his friend. However, Jesus himself said, “You are My friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:14) If we are friends of God, then we are by definition listening to him and obeying him. But even within this friendship, we cannot lose sight of the fact that we are still servants of the Most High God.

Psalm 119:89-96 zeroes in on this within verse 91. “They stand this day according to Your ordinances, for all things are Your servants.” The word all means, well, all. All things are God’s servants, regardless of if they follow him or not. To have an unfaithful servant, you must have a servant who is not doing what his master has commanded.

Of course, God can make us his friends. That is his prerogative. But by his own terminology, we are his servants. And this is the phrase we each long to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Click To Tweet

God’s Servants Forever

Forever, O Lord,

Your word is settled in heaven. Psalm 119:89

As Christians, we often misunderstand heaven and earth language. We confuse these terms with locational difference, not dimensional difference. But the difference is dimensional. How do we know? Because God’s Kingdom is invading this earth right now.

God’s heaven and his earth are intersecting, and his Kingdom is the meeting place. This is why we pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

God’s heaven and his earth are intersecting, and his Kingdom is the meeting place. This is why we pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Click To Tweet

We must align our viewpoint to this reality. The difference in heaven and earth is not locational. It is dimensional. This changes how we view the idea that God’s word is forever settled in heaven.

Forever, O Lord,

Your word is settled in heaven.

Your faithfulness continues throughout all generations;

You established the earth, and it stands.

They stand this day according to Your ordinances, Psalm 119:89-91a

Take special note of these terms, underline them in your Bible: heaven, earth, and generations. These are important in light of verse 91, which says that they stand, not it stands.

What are they? Whatever the antecedent of they is, it cannot be the word of God. Why? Because David continued by telling us that it is by God’s word that they stand. God’s word, his ordinances, is how they stand to this day. The only correct antecedent would be heavens, earth, and the generations.

God spoke and the world was made, the heavens and the earth, the dimensional and the physical. He made them both. They came into being by his word.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. John 1:1-3

God spoke a truth into being and now we see that the heavens, the earth, and the generations stand forever in accordance to God’s ordinances. To what purpose? The answer is in the second half of verse 91, “For all things are Your servants.”

Where do you and I fit into these categories of heaven, earth, and the generations? We fit in generations because he’s not talking about time. We fit on earth because we are on earth. We fit as citizens of heaven because we are citizens of his Kingdom.

And the Kingdom we belong to is here, now, and not yet. It is amazing how this works. In Psalm 119:91 David has told us that all these things—the heavens, the generations, and the earth—they will all stand forever as servants of God.

God spoke and the world was made; the heavens and the earth, the dimensional and the physical. They came into being by his Word. Click To Tweet

Leadership – Practically Applied

This is where we start to get really practical, because servants do what their master says. The Church for far too long has divorced holiness and obedience from grace. This makes no sense. We are saved by grace through faith. But in light of God’s mercy, what do we do?

We obey. We obey as a servant would obey their master because that is what we are called to do. And therein lies our challenge. We have a negative view of servanthood.

But the reality that we are servants of God is not a negative. It is positive. It is truth and beauty. It is what we were created to be. It is in fulfilling this identity that we walk within our purpose.

Here’s where the confusion enters in, the world (and the Church) has fallen into the false belief that all servants serve in the exact same way, or in the same standing and capacity.

This idea leaked into leadership years ago. All the leadership guides, all the leadership books, all of the leadership gurus came out and started talking about a concept called flat leadership.

This idea communicated that nobody is in charge. This then invaded the Church, right under our noses and in large part to our delight. In Christian circles it goes by the name of servant leadership.

The name itself is not the problem. Servant leadership needs to be redeemed. The name identifies the positive and Biblical attributes of true leadership. Sadly, the current substance of servant leadership is far from Biblical truth.

Not only have we flattened leadership, we have also flattened servanthood. In effect, we have said that every servant serves the same. This is not what the Bible says. This is functionally not how effective structures of any type work. Children do not function in the same way as parents. Citizens do not function in the same way as governing officials. And they never should. In fact, when they do we reap the problems which are pervading our lives today.

The reality that we are servants of God is not a negative. It is positive. It is truth and beauty. It is what we were created to be. It is in fulfilling this identity that we walk within our purpose. Click To Tweet

Within the following segments, we will study two ideas that are critical to understanding true Biblical servant leadership: the equality of all servants and the inequality of servanthood.

Let’s Talk

Does the idea of inequality in servanthood challenge you? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Comment below or email me at nathan@nathanfranckhauser.com.

2 thoughts on “The Good & Faithful Servant – Part 1”

  1. Pingback: Becoming "They" - Part 2 | Rebuilding

  2. Pingback: Calling Good Evil, and Evil Good | Rebuilding

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