The Servants Of Christ
“And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.” —Matthew 20:27
What is the true motive behind what you do as a believer? Are you seeking out a position, recognition, a platform, or prestige? Do you desire to be great at what you do? Is it wrong to want to do the best for the Lord? The definition of ambition is a strong desire to do or to achieve something that typically requires determination and hard work. Ambition might indicate that a person has strong drive, determination, enterprise, initiative, enthusiasm, zeal, or a real sense of purpose—all commendable attributes. But ambition to accomplish something for Christ can easily turn to ambition for personal glory.
Again, the question must be asked, what is the true motive behind your ambition? Is it to promote yourself or Christ?
Do You Know What You Are Asking For?
In this narrative, which begins in Matthew 20:20 and runs through verse 28, we find James and John accompanied by their mother asking Jesus for a favor. They asked the Lord to give them the highest of seats in His kingdom. In other words, “We want to be seen as those who are just below You in a position and importance.”
Before we address their request, let’s acknowledge that it is proper to approach Christ in an attitude of worship, even an attitude of praise. The text says that they approached Him with worship and then requested a certain thing from Him. He is deserving of our adoration. However, the motive behind our worship must be the knowledge of who He is and what He has done for us. God is not a man who is moved by the placating of His emotions through faulty praise. He knows why we ask what we ask and why we are approaching Him the way we do. Be sure you approach Him with the respect and honor He deserves. I fear that not enough Christians are approaching or requesting things from God at all. I certainly do not want to hinder us from bringing every need to the Lord.
Jesus told His disciples that they didn’t know what they were asking for. Do you know what a request such as this demands?
The True Cost Of Ministry
There is no way that James and John understood what ministry would cost them. They did not truly understand what greatness in the kingdom of God would require. Jesus asks them if they could be baptized with the baptism that He was baptized with. Could they follow in the footsteps of the Master?
When we begin our efforts for the Lord, there is truly no way that we can see or understand what God will ask of us to complete or fulfill the ministry that He has given us. However, there are common elements in every ministry situation, and the most common is the requirement of death to self. This is evidenced in Christ’s example in the most profound and striking way in the garden of Gethsemane. It is here where He surrenders to the complete will of God despite the fact that there is satanic opposition as well as opposition from his own flesh. He understood fully the price that He was about to pay for the redemption of mankind. He understood the physical pain, the spiritual battle, the separation from His heavenly Father that would occur—He understood it all. He asked His Father if there were any other way to accomplish this redemption plan. He then submitted entirely and completely to the plan established before the foundation of the world—the plan of having a Lamb slain. And He was the Lamb. Ministry demands death to self, and God will present you with the opportunity to die. If you truly want to be considered for a high position in God’s kingdom, then death to self is a prerequisite.
Jesus then exposed the request that John and James made to all the other disciples, and when they heard of the request, they were angry.
I suppose the anger was in their hearts because they had desired the same thing but neglected to ask. The disciples often disputed among themselves as to who might be the greatest. Jesus was about to reveal what it took to be great in the kingdom of God.
Greatness Defined In The Kingdom Of God
Jesus now takes the opportunity to teach His disciples what true greatness looks like. He tells them the world believes that greatness includes the ability to be over others and to tell others what to do. In the world system, those who are great exercise dominion over others, telling them what to do and how to do it. But Jesus said that was not greatness as defined by the kingdom of God. He said whoever would be greatest needs to be a minister. The word used by Christ indicates the position of a deacon or one who handled physical matters for another. The whole idea is that the greatest would be those who would serve one another not those who would be in charge. He then restated this idea when He said whoever will be chief or first must be a bondslave or a servant.
In the Old Testament Scriptures found in Exodus 21:2-6, the instructions we’re given in regard to a Hebrew bondslave. If one fell on hard times financially, he could indenture himself to another Hebrew brother. After six years of service, he would be set free to return to his own inheritance. But if that individual desired to remain a servant of this other man, he could choose to do so. If he loved his master, he could make a lifetime commitment of service.
Some servants, while indentured, had married. At the end of six years, these servants were free to go, but those they had married and any children they may have had stayed with the master. A man could choose the life of a bondslave because of his love for his master as well as a love for other people. This is a bondslave. It is one of the apostle Paul’s most frequent descriptions of himself. Jesus told His disciples, “If you want to be first, you have to be a bondslave and give your life as a ransom for many.”
Are we ready to be great in the kingdom of God? Can we receive grace to follow the rule of the servant even as Christ Himself? Still want to be great? Then become a bondslave for Christ!