A GOOD LEADER IS A SERVANT
Date: December 29
"But this is not to be so among you; instead, whoever desires to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be most important and first in rank among you must be slave of all."
There was quite a heated debate among the disciples about who was going to be the greatest. In verse 35 we read that James and John, the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus and asked Him to grant to them something special. In verse 36, Jesus asked them what it was they wanted from Him. Then in verse 37 we read, "And they said to Him, Grant that we may sit, one at Your right hand and one at [Your] left hand, in Your glory (Your majesty and splendor)." So they wanted to dominate right next to Jesus. Then in verse 41 we read, "And when the other ten [apostles] heard it, they began to be indignant with James and John." So the disciples were getting upset with each other.
In verse 42 it says, "But Jesus called them to [Him] and said to them, You know that those who are recognized as governing and are supposed to rule the Gentiles (the nations) lord it over them [ruling with absolute power, holding them in subjection], and their great men exercise authority and dominion over them." So Jesus was explaining that this was how the world conducted leadership. But in the ministry, things were done differently. He said to them in verse 43, "But this is not to be so among you; instead, whoever desires to be great among you must be your servant."
An important thing to understand here is that Jesus never said we shouldn't desire to be great. He never said we shouldn't desire to grow and have more spiritual gifts. Actually in 1 Corinthians 14:1 Paul wrote, "Eagerly pursue and seek to acquire [this] love [make it your aim, your great quest]; and earnestly desire and cultivate the spiritual endowments (gifts), especially that you may prophesy (interpret the divine will and purpose in inspired preaching and teaching)." Now that we are in Christ, we should always desire to grow spiritually and receive more gifts and greater opportunities to serve in the kingdom of God. But our purpose for becoming great is different than the world's purpose.
The world desires for more power so they can rule over more people. But we, as believers, desire for more power so that we can serve more people. In other words, we are to employ the gifts and abilities that God has given us to meet other people's needs and bless other people's lives. So God wants us to improve ourselves. There's nothing wrong with that. But He wants us to improve ourselves so that we can better serve others. That's what makes us different from the world.
Then in verse 44 Jesus said, "And whoever wishes to be most important and first in rank among you must be slave of all." Again, He didn't say that we shouldn't wish to be most important or first in rank. He just said that we should desire those things in order to serve others. Now the way to be a slave of others is by becoming a slave to Jesus Christ. We are to surrender our will and employ our abilities in a way that will bring glory to God and bless others around us. That's what Jesus is teaching us.
It is natural for all us to want to become better. We all want to become great, successful, and important. That's a natural desire that God has placed within us. But the purpose of that desire is not so we can rule over others, as the world does, but so we can be servants to others. That is one of the key principles in leadership. We are not called to be lords over other people. We are called to be a blessing to other people. Let's say, for example, that we are in leadership and there are some subordinates under us. Our job is to train them and enable them to develop greater skills so that they can take on greater responsibilities. In other words, we should always help others reach their potential and fulfill the purposes that God has for them in their lives. That's what makes for successful leadership.
But in order to be a successful leader, we must improve in our own skills. That means we are to desire more growth, more gifts, and more abilities. That's what Jesus is teaching us here. It's proper to desire promotions and advancements in life, but the purpose and motivation behind it is completely different than that of the world. Our purpose is first of all to bring glory to God and secondly, to serve others.