Our last post was an introduction to true servant leadership. We asked ourselves hard questions to understand our position as servants to our Master. If you haven’t read the first post, I invite you to check it out.
In this post we will tackle harder questions as we look at two ideas that are critical to understanding true Biblical servant leadership: the equality of all servants and the inequality of servanthood.
The Universals of Servanthood
First, we will deal with the universals of servanthood. These are the rules of servanthood to which every single Christian is subject. For example, the Fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5. We are each commanded to love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control.
No one gets a pass on these. Our lives should be defined by these fruits. As Christ’s servants, we are told that this is what marks us. We will be patient. We will be kind. We will be loving. We won’t lord it over one another.
These are universal requirements for our servanthood.
And within these requirements, we adhere to Biblical definitions. If one of the fruits of the Spirit is love, do we get to define love? No. The Bible defines love.
Maybe we say, “I want to be loving but patience just isn’t for me.” Well, 1 Corinthians defines love as patient. It defines love as kind. And, as servants, we don’t get to redefine the terms.
Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not jealous. Love does not brag. It is not arrogant. It does not act unbecomingly. It does not seek its own. It is not provoked. It does not take into account a wrong suffered. It does not rejoice in unrighteousness.
If we loved like servants of Christ, we wouldn’t tolerate the chaos of our world. Sadly, we don’t love very well. We look a lot like the world, rejoicing in unrighteousness. This is antithetical to Biblical love. We, as people who hold the name of Christ, should hold to God’s definition of servanthood and his definition of love. That means that we do not rejoice in unrighteousness but instead rejoice in the truth.
Where do we find truth? In the Word of God. Why? Because the word alone endures forever. It established all things. It alone is steadfast, never moving or shaking.
Inequality in Servanthood, Joseph vs. Jacob
But here’s where servanthood is not equal. In Genesis, we read that Joseph was second in command of Egypt. He rose to second in command under Pharaoh because of God’s favor and providence. God worked the evil he endured at the hands of his brothers out to his good. That’s what God does. He works all things together for the good of those who love him.
As second in command, Joseph could make any call. He could do anything he wanted. If he told Egypt to save up food and money, they did. If he told them to distribute food and resources, they did. Joseph was a servant of both God and Pharaoh.
Joseph’s father, Jacob, was also servant of God. But Jacob was serving in a different capacity than his son. Jacob wasn’t in charge. In fact, Jacob was on the receiving end of Joseph and Pharaoh’s generosity.Though both Joseph and Jacob were servants of God, they were not equal in responsibility or authority. #biblicalleadership Click To Tweet
Inequality in Servanthood, The Apostles vs. The Seven
Let’s take a look at another example. This one is from Acts 6 and it deals with choosing the seven. Seven what? Seven servants.
Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. So, the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them. Acts 6:1-6
Whoa, Whoa, Whoa. Let’s back up a moment. Were the Twelve thinking too highly of themselves by refusing to wait on tables? No, not at all. They understood that servanthood is not flat.
Besides that, look at what happened when the Twelve brought the matter to the congregation: no disagreement, no split, no fights, no long periods of indecision. The text says, “The statement found approval with the whole congregation.”
Why? Because the congregation also understood that servanthood wasn’t flat. They didn’t have a problem with the idea that some were called to prayer and the ministry of the word and that some were called to wait on tables. They didn’t have a problem with the idea that some were called to serve in one way, and some were called to serve in another way.Though the Twelve, the Seven, and the congregation were all God’s servants, they were not equal in responsibility or authority. #biblicalleadership Click To Tweet
Inequality in Servanthood: Men vs. Women
Let me tell you where this idea of servanthood is most rejected. It is most rejected when it comes to issues of gender roles inside the Church and inside the family.
Galatians tells us very clearly that God loves each and every one of us equally. It also tells us that in Christ Jesus, there is no distinction.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28
Jesus doesn’t see the world that he created in the way that we humans see the world. We see distinction, we see some as superior and some as subpar. Jesus sees us all as equal servants with equal value and equal worth. But he also calls his servants to different positions, different tasks, different roles.
And we, his servants, don’t like it. We don’t like it because it isn’t enough for us that we are equal in value and worth. We demand to be equal in every single thing. So, we rewrite the Bible. We reframe it to support what is more comfortable to us—flat servanthood.
But the truth is that we are each valuable. We each have a job to do. We each have a role. And this is a precious, beautiful, and amazing truth.
What the word of God says isn’t the problem. We are the problem. We cannot settle for an equality of value and worth. We demand equality in every single aspect. We strive to be special, to be superior, to be equal in all roles and all responsibilities. But in doing so, we have reversed God’s leadership.The word of God isn’t the problem. We are the problem. We refuse to settle for an equality of value and worth, instead we demand equality in every single aspect. #biblicalleadership Click To Tweet
Paul on Leadership & Service
Let’s go to Ephesians. What did Paul write to the Ephesians? He wrote that everybody was subject to everybody. Is he promoting flat leadership? No. How do we know? Because in the following verses, he defines how we serve one another.
He laid out what it looked like for a Christian wife to submit to her husband. He detailed how a Christian child should submit to his or her parents. He touched on how Christian slaves submitted to their masters.
But he also showed us how husbands should serve their wives. How fathers should serve their children. How masters should serve their slaves. None of us look exactly the same in our service.
And, none of us like that. The problem is that we don’t like being servants. Of course, we won’t come out and say this. We approach it in a more covert manner. We say things like, “I’m a servant of Jesus and I do Jesus my own way.” No. We are all servants of Jesus and he tells us how to serve in every facet of our lives.
Am I okay with this idea? I am. It’s not an idea that will get me liked, but I’m confident this is what the Bible teaches. And, here is another truth I’m confident in: if you serve God in his way, you will be called to unique things, and that is beautiful. You will never be called to oppress another person.If you serve God in his way, you will never be called to oppress another person. #biblicalleadership Click To Tweet
Servanthood vs. Lording it over Others
But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28
And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves. Luke 22:25-27
So where is the disconnect? Why do we have this tension between men and women? Well, women experienced men banging on their chests, acting authoritarian and stupid and they saw that as aggressive, ugly, and wrong. Some came to the conclusion that men suck as leaders and should be done away with. But this isn’t the right solution to the problem.
He called men to love. He called men to serve. He called men to lay down their own lives to the point of dying for those around them. That is what servant leadership looks like.
However, servant leadership, according to current Church and world standards, is flat everything. But flat everything is complete anarchy. We are seeing this play out within our own culture. The only solution is the word of God. The only way forward is obeying our master and choosing to do things his way.
In our next and last post, we will return to Psalm 119 and see how the word of God can regulate our response as we deal with a subject as fraught with tension as the equality of all servants and the inequality of servanthood.God never called men to lord it over anyone. He never called them to bang their chests and demand their own way. Click To Tweet
How have you been affected by good and/or bad representations of Biblical leadership. I’d love to hear your comments below or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.