Section Three: The Lifestyle Characteristics of a Godly Life.
Our current theme: Characteristic One: Having A Servant’s Heart.
Our reading for today: Matthew 20: 20-28 (MsgB)
It was about that time that the mother of the Zebedee brothers came with her two sons and knelt before Jesus with a request. “What do you want?” Jesus asked. She said, “Give Your word that these two sons of mine will be awarded the highest places of honor in Your Kingdom, one at Your right hand, one at Your left hand.” Jesus responded, “You have no idea what you’re asking.” And He said to James and John, “Are you capable of drinking the cup that I’m about to drink?” They said, “Sure, why not?” Jesus said, “Come to think of it, you are going to drink My cup. But as to awarding places of honor, that’s not My business. My Father is taking care of that.” When the ten others heard about this, they lost their tempers, thoroughly disgusted with the two brothers. So Jesus got them together to settle things down. He said, “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served—and then to give away His life in exchange for the many who are held hostage.”
Here’s a sad little truth when it comes to responding to Jesus’ call to servanthood…
If you and I, as dedicated followers of Christ, want to be “great” at servanthood, we must allow the Master full access to a rather ugly core motivation found deep within our human condition. As I see it, that bad-boy motivator is our nearly unending hunger for position and prominence. The drive to find a place of recognition…or as Jesus politely calls it here in today’s passage…“a place of honor.”
You see, from this very first group of Jesus-followers in the first century, all the way through to today, there is a hideous monster lurking in the shadows for all who desire to serve God. And whether it be as obvious as it is here when James and John (the two Zebedee brothers) persuade their mom to step up to the plate, asking Jesus for some special favors, or when you or I secretly hope the pastor will mention our name when pointing out those in the church who have served or given in special ways, the problem is basically the same.
The problem is self.
So let’s get honest here.
We all love it when we receive special attention. It feels good inside, doesn’t it, when others recognize our worth or value? And who can blame us? This world thrives on an insatiable need for self-worth, for value based on the work we do. That’s probably why Jesus had to point out to His first-century friends, that those who follow Him will need to operate differently than the world around us, where “godless rulers throw their weight around,” allowing “a little power” to quickly go to their heads.
You see, Christ-centered servanthood just doesn’t operate the way the world operates. As shown here in today’s passage, there just isn’t any wiggle room in Jesus’ approach to ministry…no room for self-promotion or self-aggrandizing. To Jesus, serving God and serving self are much like oil and water. They simply can’t be mixed.
Thus, if you and I have any secret dreams of gaining a seat of prominence by serving the Master, it surely won’t be long before God sends a Spirit-empowered plan to knock us off our high horses, just as the Master does here in the lives of His good friends who are plotting to gain a place of prominence as they work for the cause of Christ.
Sadly, if you look at church history, you’ll see a never-ending war between self-will versus following the will of the Father. It’s interesting, isn’t it, that Jesus had to address this ugly problem of self-promotion as it was in its early stages of development in those He dearly loved? And I’m guessing He still sees it bubbling up in all of us Jesus-followers yet today.
Which leaves us with the only true remedy to this sad condition of the human heart.
Come to serve – not be served.
True servanthood, as Jesus defines it, is a call to humble service, a call to become otherly, a call to become like the Master. No room for self-promotion. No grace for self-seeking silliness.
The Master has shown the way. Now, let’s follow Him for His glory alone.
My prayer: Alright, Jesus…I come out with my hands up. In truth, when left to my own fleshly devices, I will always tend to ponder in my heart as I’m serving alongside You…“So, what’s in this for me?” I confess my deep need for self-worth and value, so as I pour myself out in service to others, coming to serve and not be served, fill me with what I need in the way only You can. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: So how might I be acting like Jesus’ first-century followers, looking for special favors and places of prominence and honor, when the Master is actually looking for me to be willing to serve rather than be served? What needs to change inside me so I can become freer to be otherly, willing to serve the Master even when there may be no visible benefit to me?
So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?
Over a thirty-six week period, you and I will take a deeper look into twelve key characteristics of a godly life. In other words, we’ll take A Journey into Christian Discipleship. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Journey home page for ease of use. ENJOY!
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