Commands of Christ

Be a Servant

Where is this command found?

“. . . Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Matthew 20:26–28

Applying This Command

It is not wrong to desire greatness if we desire it for the benefit of those we are serving. God warns, “Seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not” (Jeremiah 45:5). Christ’s command does not condemn greatness; it is, in fact, informing us how to achieve it. God gave Joseph a sense of future greatness when He had him dream that his brothers and even his parents would some day bow down to him. This desire for greatness was refined by God as Joseph learned to serve others when he was a slave and a prisoner.

One who aspires to greatness should be a minister, and one who wants to be chief must be a servant. (See Matthew 20:26–27.) In this passage, the Greek word for minister is diakonos. It denotes “one who executes the commands of another,” and “a waiter (at table or in other menial duties).” A derivative of this word is used to describe the mission of Jesus: “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

In Matthew 20:27, the word servant is doulos and means “slave, one who is in a permanent relation of servitude to another.” Paul referred to himself as a bond slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is to faithful douloses that Jesus will say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).

Bible Verses for Meditation

In addition to meditation on Matthew 20:26–28, meditating on the verses below will provide you with further insight and understanding of Christ’s command: Be a Servant.

Matthew 23:12

“And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”

Philippians 2:5–9

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name.”

I Peter 5:6

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.”

Matthew 10:42

“And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.”

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Study Question

Q: How did Joseph overcome the same temptation that defeated Samson, David, and Solomon?

A: Among the men listed in God’s “Hall of Fame” are Samson, David, Solomon and Joseph (see Hebrews 11). Three of these men failed morally and suffered greatly from the consequences of their sin, but Joseph did not succumb to temptation. What made the difference?

Samson had the heart of a strong man and began to rely on his strength to get out of trouble instead of relying on the Lord. David had the heart of a shepherd and, while there are many admirable qualities in a shepherd, he began to focus on his own needs instead of the needs of the flock. Solomon had the heart of a leader, but he became over-confident and began to lean on his own reasoning to decide between right and wrong.

Joseph, however, remained pure even though he was severely tempted and could have used numerous excuses to justify immorality. He suffered rejection by his brothers, was taken away from Godly parents, was sold as a slave, was brought to a heathen country and surrounded by worldly influences, and was relentlessly pursued by a scheming woman.

Nevertheless, Joseph accepted his circumstances as being from the Lord and put his whole heart into serving his master. God’s hand of blessing was upon him, and therefore, all that Joseph did prospered. As a result, more and more authority was entrusted to him. Eventually, Egypt and many surrounding nations, including the fledgling nation of Israel, were saved from a devastating famine because Joseph had the heart of a servant. He viewed his responsibilities as a sacred trust from both his master and the God Whom he served.

When his master’s wife tempted him to sin with her, Joseph’s immediate response was to recognize how this sin would ruin his profitability, which is the key factor of being an effective servant. Therefore, Joseph said to her, “… Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house [has no concerns], and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand … . How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:8–9).

We will never understand or experience the true nature of greatness until we know what it means to be a servant of the Lord and to have a servant’s heart toward others. We should strive to serve in such a way that we will one day hear these words from our heavenly Father: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” (See Matthew 25:21, 23.)

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