Anyone who spends any amount of time attending church or studying Scripture understands that Jesus came to this world as a servant. And as believers, we’re to follow his example and serve others, too (Matthew 20:26; Mark 10:45).
But let’s face it; no one wants to be a servant. We’d rather be served. And that’s not surprising — servitude has always been a problem with people, including Jesus’ disciples.
For instance, Mark 9:33-35 records the disciples arguing about who would be the most important when Jesus came into his kingdom. Since rank and status played an important role in the life of Jewish groups, this argument would have been considered normal. But it had no place in Jesus’ value system. He told them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
Because we’ve heard it said so many times, becoming a servant doesn’t carry much weight with us. Sure, we become servants in the way we think a servant should be — we’ll help in the nursery at church, we’ll contribute to the bake sale to raise awareness for missions, we’ll even throw money at a worthy cause thinking we did our part.
In other words, we serve in a way that makes us the most comfortable.
But this isn’t exactly what Jesus was teaching. While all the above services are good things, to achieve the kind of servant Jesus teaches about in Scripture, a person has to have an attitude change; an attitude that places all others above ourselves.
And that’s the problem. While most believers have good intentions and want to be obedient to God, we have a constant internal struggle with being self-centered. It’s very difficult to think of others as more important than ourselves, especially if we don’t particularly care for someone.
So how do we know our self-centeredness is a problem? Well, if we were doing things correctly, our goodness and kindness would be bursting at the seams. For example, churches wouldn’t have a constant need for volunteers or money; communities wouldn’t have a constant need for food or supplies at the local homeless shelter. In fact, if every believer acted on placing others above themselves, there would be such an overflow of giving and servant hood that we’d have to look outside our immediate churches and cities to actually live up to the teachings of Scripture.
Listen to what the apostle Paul tells the believers at Philippi: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
Paul tells us to first have the right attitude — an attitude of humility and love for others. Once we have the right attitude, we’re better equipped to carry out the action of servant hood.
So how do we get the right attitude? We have to stop conforming to the pattern of the world and become transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). This means we allow God to change our thoughts and understandings. In other words, we start thinking as God thinks.
But it isn’t easy. The world tells us to first focus on ourselves, and if there’s anything left over to go ahead and help others if we’d like to.
However, God expects us to rise above the world’s standards and teaches the opposite of what the world teaches. He tells us to first focus our thoughts on others before we focus on ourselves — something which seems backward, unnatural, and strange.
But if we’re willing to work on changing our thoughts to reflect the teachings in Scripture, correct actions will follow — actions filled with Christian love and compassion for others. Gone will be the days of acting on obligation, guilt, or even boredom; the transformation taught by Jesus and the apostle Paul will finally be a true transformation of the heart and not something just hoped for.
And that’s something every believer should strive for.
Donna Hughey is an award-winning Christian author and columnist. She lives in Crescent City.