So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12
Up until the time of Jesus, Socrates and other great thinkers had summarised ethical conduct in one statement. Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you. It's in the negative, it focuses on what you must NOT do. If you don't want someone to hurt you, then don't hurt them. If you don't want someone to lie to you, then don't lie to them. Sounds good, right? There’s a problem with this kind of philosophy though, it allows you to withdraw. Had the Good Samaritan we spoke about yesterday followed this line of thinking, he could have walked past the bleeding man on the side of the road with a shrug of his shoulders that said, “That's not my responsibility. I didn’t rob him. I didn't hurt him. It's not my problem, so I'm moving on.”
But then Jesus comes along in Matthew 7:12 and makes the most revolutionary ethical statement about how we are to live our lives every day. There is a huge chasm between the negative statement, “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you,” and the positive statement, “Do to others what you'd want them to do to you.” The positive statement doesn't allow us to withdraw. It puts us on a proactive stance. If you think of a way you'd like a person to treat you, then you proactively treat them that way.
Can you imagine what kind of world we would live in if people lived out Jesus’ words? Selfishness and self-centeredness would be a thing of the past. Everyone would be a servant. However, we live in a world that teaches us to look out for ourselves, to get as much as we can by giving as little as we can. We live in a world that teaches us that ‘what's mine is mine and I'll keep it’. A servant’s heart teaches that ‘what’s mine is God’s and I’ll share it.’
Prayer: Heavenly Father, it’s so easy to get caught up in the selfishness of the world. Teach me to proactively treat other with kindness, respect and love. Amen
Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. Matthew 12:18
In today’s verse, it’s clear that Jesus was living out a specific mission on earth – he was God’s chosen servant. It's a remarkable thing to be chosen by God. God's choosing is not like our choosing. We are given options. God is not given options; he makes options. He did not ask Jewish candidates to apply for the position of Messiah and choose Mary's son. He had begotten from all eternity the only One who could bring hope to a lost world. Christ came into the world as the eternally chosen one. Powerfully at his baptism and again at his transfiguration, Jesus is declared by God to be his Son, whom he loves. Once again we are reminded that Jesus is chosen by God to be his servant whom he loves and who brings him pleasure.
It’s also clear the Jesus came to earth to do the Father's will. In addition, his ministry is carried out by the power of the Holy Spirit and its purpose is to share God's love, mercy and justice. In much the same way, we are called, chosen, and empowered by God through his Holy Spirit. He lives in us and our goal is to bring God pleasure and to do his will. We are not chosen for our own benefit or to fulfill our own selfish ambitions, we are chosen to serve God. Today and every day, make it your life’s goal to live by the power of his Spirit and make it your aim to please God and share his grace with others.
Prayer: Father, please help me to find your will for my life so that I may serve you with undiluted devotion. Please forgive me when I get caught up in things that are not healthy for me spiritually and not helpful for my brothers and sisters in Christ. Amen.
Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” Exodus 4:10-12
As Christians, we often say how much we desire to serve God – until we’re actually called to action! Then we do exactly what Moses did, we make excuses. "I'm not really comfortable with that" or "This isn't my area of expertise" or “But someone else is far more qualified than I am!” Sound familiar?
God doesn't call the equipped, he equips the called.
He equips us with gifts and talents to serve him, and often in unexpected ways. God could’ve miraculously given Moses the gift of the gab, but he didn’t. God gave him Aaron to speak on his behalf. And just how does God equip us to serve him? We can read the answer to that question in 2 Timothy 3:17,"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." If you want to be equipped to do anything God asks of you, you need only to study his word. God’s formula is simple; learn his word to gain the skills and tools needed to serve him. So if we don’t feel as if we have the skills or tools to serve God, it is because we are not spending adequate time learning and applying his word.
Prayer: God, we pray that you equip us through your Holy Spirit to be able to serve you. Lord, we want to give you the glory and honor in everything we do, forgive me for the times I’ve made excuses for my unwillingness to serve you. Help to read and understand your word. Amen.
Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. John 12:26
Servant leadership is a buzzword that’s been around for decades. It’s a leadership philosophy and set of leadership practices that put the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible. But long before organisations and psychologists hit on the concept of servant leadership, the Bible had a great deal to say about servanthood.
Unselfish servanthood is a quality which so completely characterised the life of Jesus Christ, the greatest servant of all.
Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45)
The apostle Paul added to this focus when he wrote, “Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but the interests of others as well” (Phil. 2:4).
When we give Jesus Christ his rightful place as Lord of our lives, his lordship will be expressed in the way we serve others. We demonstrate our love for God in the ways in which we show our love for others. As believers, we all called to a life in ministry. That doesn’t necessarily mean we are all called as preachers or pastors or church workers, but it does mean we all called to be servants for the glory of God.
A retired army general is quoted with saying, “Rank is given you to enable you to better serve those above and below you. It is not given for you to practice your idiosyncrasies.” God has served us by sacrificing Christ on the cross for our sins, and we should serve others by giving the gospel and our lives to them. Those who desire to be great in God’s kingdom must be the servant of all. Over the next while we’ll be looking at different aspects of servanthood in the Bible, and how we can develop a servant’s heart.
Prayer: Lord, teach me to put aside my own ego and truly serve you selflessly. Let my love for you be evident through the way I show love for those around me. Amen
“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” “We can,” they answered. Mark 10:38-39
We could have no greater example or hero of a servant than Jesus Christ. Today’s passage shows us that Christ deliberately chose to become a servant. Servanthood came at a great cost to Jesus, and it comes at a cost to us too.
When Jesus spoke to His disciples about servanthood at the Last Supper, He didn’t try to convince them that it would be an easy ride. He got straight to the small print of the contract: the cost in the service of the kingdom. The task to be entrusted to them was tremendous. Jesus needed men and women of keen perspective and deep conviction. Disciples with both eyes wide open, hearts fully committed, and wills completely surrendered to Him; men and women who would follow Him to the death.
The Lord’s searching question was superficially answered, “We can”. Jesus told them that they would indeed drink the cup and experience the baptism. They must learn that for an influential spiritual ministry to bear fruit, there would be a steep price to pay — and that it cannot be acquired in one easy payment. In the end, it cost James his head, and John finished his days in exile doing hard labour on the island of Patmos. We may not suffer the way the disciples did, but as Christians, we should never be surprised when trials come our way.
The thought of suffering and servanthood are intertwined. In 1 Peter 2:21 we read, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.”
Take some time today to read through 1 Peter and consider the call to stand firm for Jesus even when it brings suffering to us. Spend some time in prayer, meditating on how willing you are to bear the sufferings of Christ wherever you happen to be.
Prayer: Lord, strengthen me that I might be able to endure eagerly and faithfully the difficulties that come with being a Christian. Thank you for Christian friends who encourage me to stand firm for Christ.
Abraham was now very old, and the Lord had blessed him in every way. He said to the senior servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, “….go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.” Genesis 24:1-2 & 4
It’s not an easy task Abraham gives to his servant. He’s asking his servant to travel hundreds of kilometres to his homeland and bring back a wife for his son Isaac. There are strict conditions to Abraham's request as well: The woman must not be a Canaanite but a relative; and Isaac must not go with the servant to Abraham's country. Abraham even makes his servant swear an oath concerning the matter. The servant didn’t question Abraham or try to talk him out of it – after all, what father would let his daughter disappear across the desert with one complete stranger to marry another?
But this servant, who is unnamed in this passage, accepts his quest with grace and humility. It was a seemingly impossible task with no evident solution, but he trusted God throughout. Before he even started looking for a wife for Isaac, he prayed for guidance. And more than that, he prayed for the right kind of wife for Isaac. The servant prayed for a woman willing not only to draw water for him, but also willing to water his numerous camels. He was looking for a woman with a servant's heart, a woman willing to go above and beyond what was expected of her. He found this woman in Rebekah.
The story continues with Abraham's servant thanking the Lord for his kindness and faithfulness to Abraham (Genesis 24:26-27) and Rebekah willingly abandoning her comfortable, familiar life to live in a new country with a new family. What faithfulness! What humility! What hearts for the Lord! And what love for others these two possessed!
Prayer: Thank you Father for the Biblical examples of people like Abraham's servant and Rebekah who encourage and inspire me to give my all, to go above and beyond the bare minimum, to act quickly for the good of others. For your sake. Amen
And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favour.” Ruth 2:2
Serving others is something I know I should be doing more often and more willingly, but it’s often easier said than done. And serving those closest to me, especially my family, is often the most difficult of all. Thankfully, the Bible is filled with countless examples of Godly men and women who possess a servant's heart and were blessed for their kindness, selflessness, hard work, and humility. One excellent example of a woman who always put the needs of her family about her own was Ruth.
Ruth’s story is a well-known one. It’s the story of the devotion and faithfulness of a Moabite woman who leaves her homeland in Moab after the death of her husband and goes to live in the land of Israel with her Jewish mother-in-law Naomi. Ruth took upon herself the role of a servant to the mother-in-law whom she had come to love so very deeply. But what struck me about her story as I read it again, was the way in which Ruth served Naomi. She went to work. Ruth wasn’t one to simply accept charity; she was determined to earn whatever she needed to care for herself and Naomi.
When Ruth and Naomi arrived in Bethlehem, they were dirt poor. Ruth needed to take care of Naomi, so she spent her days in fields picking up the grain the harvesters had left behind. Taking care of your family isn’t glamorous, but servanthood isn’t supposed to be.
Ruth’s story also shows us how God rewards humility and the willingness to minister to the needs of others. He blessed Ruth by bringing her into the field of Boaz, a man of great wealth who would one day become her husband. So often there are blessings that God would willingly give to us, but our arrogant pride, or greediness, or worldliness stands in the way
Prayer: Lord, I want to be a servant to my family. I want to possess a heart like Christ, to be willing to sacrifice my needs and wants for the needs and wants of my family. Teach me to be more like Ruth. Amen
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.” Luke 10: 3-33
We’ve been talking about servanthood and what it means to be a servant of God. This well-known parable of the Good Samaritan is a wonderful example of someone with the heart of a servant. Why would this Samaritan stop and care for this wounded man, potentially at a great risk to himself? He could have just passed the wounded man by and no one would have known, no one would have thought less of him. I think ultimately there is only one reason; he had a servant's heart. He had a heart of compassion. Jesus said that he took pity on the man that had been beaten. He had compassion for him, and because of that compassion, he was moved to help him.
Last week we spoke about availability as one of the keys to servanthood. This parable reiterates that. The Samaritan didn't plan for this happen. It wasn’t a part of his scheduled day. He saw a need and he made himself available. He just went about his daily business keeping an eye open for an opportunity to serve. There are simple service opportunities in front of us every day, but most of the time we don’t make ourselves available for them. God doesn’t operate from our daily planner. The appointments in our diaries and Blackberry seldom match up with the appointments he has for us. God can use us if we are willing to make ourselves available to the service appointments that he has for us, and compassionate towards the needs of others.
Prayer: Father, I pray that you might soften my heart so that I might become less callous towards people's needs and less rigid to the hurt and the pain in this world. Amen
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul. He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:7-8
Some things never change. Corruption was just as rife in Judah in 7th century BC as it is in so many countries, including South Africa, in the 21 century AD. In Micah's day, many of the religious leaders were corrupt. Most prophets proclaimed messages of approval to those who paid bribes, while they pronounced judgment upon those who did not. There was also the general idea that if you’re good enough, if you make the right personal sacrifices, you’ll be ok with God.
It’s an idea that’s still around today, and Micah’s response is just as applicable now as it was then. God is pretty clear that we can’t simply make up for our sins by offering him something valuable or putting on a spectacular show of righteousness. Sometimes what we need to do is very simple and plain, isn't it?
We need to act justly – am I telling the truth? Do I owe anyone anything? Am I treating others with fairness and kindness? We need to love mercy - am I merciful to others when I have it in my power to help someone? Do I live in such a way that others are first, and I am last? And we need to walk humbly with my God - Do I make decisions based on how they will benefit me, or God's kingdom? Do I rely on my good deeds to count, when my heart is far from God?
God’s unchanging laws are just, and we all have a personal responsibility to them – to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.
Prayer: God, you are good. Following you does not require great wealth, great knowledge, or impressive showmanship, just a humble heart. Thank you that I can do all you require through Christ. Amen
After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. Joshua 1:1-2
Joshua in the Old Testament is a wonderful example of a servant of God who achieved incredible things. He fulfilled God’s purposes both for himself and the people of Israel. His military achievements and spiritual successes were remarkable. Why did God use Joshua in these ways? What was so special about him?
Above all else, Joshua was a servant of God. Long before God called Joshua to lead Israel, he was ready, willing and able to serve the people of God in whatever capacity he could. In Exodus 17 you can read the story of how, when the Amalekites came to fight Israel during their wilderness journey, Moses found a ready soldier in Joshua. Moses commanded Joshua to choose some men and lead the fight against the enemy. What would have made Joshua Moses’ choice of military leader? Joshua’s zeal and commitment to do the work of God was doubtless one of the deciding factors. Moses’ choice was not wrong. Without any complaints, Joshua joyfully and successfully completed the job assigned to him.
Joshua’s willingness to do God’s work is a sign of his servant’s heart. Servanthood doesn’t mean sitting around waiting to be assigned a task, but doing whatever you can for the Lord wherever you are. It means an active and zealous commitment to the things of God. It means being available for anything God would have you do at any given time.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for the work you have entrusted me to do. Help me to be faithful in very small things, realising it is there where I will learn to be worthy of your trust in greater things. Help me to be faithful to the great treasure of the gospel you have placed in my care and to always look for ways to make your kingdom known. Amen