God’s kingdom operates differently from ours. Jesus came as a servant, providing a living, breathing example for us to follow of how we are to treat others. In God’s economy, if we want to be great, having a servant heart is key. Greatness in God’s kingdom does not come from being powerful or praised by men. We must be willing to be a servant of all. It’s a heart issue.
I recently found myself in two vastly different scenarios, but both brought me back to a place of inspecting my own heart.
In the first situation, I traveled to surprise a friend for a big 50th birthday celebration being planned for her. Before returning home, however, I stayed on a few more days with another friend for the express purpose of rest and fellowship. She had declared before I even arrived, “I don’t want you lifting a finger. I’ll take care of anything you need.” She knew that the stress of the past year had left me exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally, and what I needed was rest in every sense of the word, and my short visit allowed for that.
In the second situation, I traveled out of state to speak at a women’s conference. After I arrived, I was shown my seat at the table up front, closest to the stage where I would speak. My host asked if she could get me anything and I declined, but then I asked, “What can I do for you? I’m here to serve you tonight.” I wasn’t there to come on stage for an hour and be on display, but to serve: to minister, to pray, to sweep floors or set tables if that’s what was necessary.
On my way home from the event, as I thought back through the evening and what I thought went well and what I would have changed, in my heart I thought, “I hope I represented you well tonight Lord. I hope I served you well.”
God’s economy is so much different from ours. According to God, if we want to be great, we must be willing to be a servant of all.
What does it mean to have a servant heart?
To answer the question, “what does it mean to have a servant heart,” we must first learn what a servant is. A servant is a person who meets the needs of others. A servant is an individual who puts themselves under submission to another. A servant is different from a slave in that a servant’s loyalty to one’s master is voluntary, but a slave’s is not. Every slave is a servant, but not every servant is a slave.
In Christianity, we are called first to submit to God, then to one another.
When I stayed with my friend, she had such a beautiful servant heart. She served selflessly, humbly. She gave of herself without expecting anything in return. She loved God and wanted to bless me with the overflow of that love. It left me wondering, how well do I serve others and what do I use as my guide?
5 Tips for Having a Servant Heart
1. Use Jesus as your model: Jesus was the greatest servant of all
Jesus came to earth as a servant with a commitment to serve. He always put others’ needs first. If He had come, instead, to be served, our salvation and sanctification could and would never have taken place.
“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)
“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Philippians 2:6-7)
By coming as a servant, Jesus provided a living, breathing example for us to follow of how we are to treat others, and the approach we are to take in our relationships.
“So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? “You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.” (John 13:12-15)
To cultivate a servant heart, use Jesus as your role model. He was the greatest servant of all.
2. If we want to be great, we must be least
When we watch the example that Jesus was for his disciples and for us, He has really given us two choices:
- We can choose to serve ourselves, OR
- We choose to serve others.
If we choose to serve ourselves, then we cannot be His disciples, because he taught his disciples that if they were going to follow him, they had to be willing to put themselves last.
If we choose to serve others, then we show others His love, and in that way, they will know we are His disciples.
“Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
God’s kingdom operates differently from our earthly hierarchical structures. Greatness in God’s kingdom does not come from occupying positions of power or being praised by men. God is more interested in a servant heart and our attitude toward others.
“Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,” (Matthew 20:26)
A hindrance to being a good servant is a desire for praise, power, and recognition by others or self-exaltation.
“A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Luke 22:24-30)
We must choose to serve others and be the least of these in order to have a servant heart.
3. We show our love for God by loving others
Jesus told his disciples, and us, that if we love him, we will keep His commandments. Our obedience is an outward demonstration of our love for God.
“This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13)
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Colossians 3:23-24)
“Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others.” (1 Corinthians 10:24)
When we obey God’s commandments, we exhibit a servant heart.
4. Consider Others Before Yourself
In today’s society, there has become a tendency to focus on self-fulfillment rather than making it a priority to serve God and others. This is not consistent with Scripture.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)
Modern society has made an industry out of self-fulfillment and self-help for everything from dieting to reaching one’s greatest potential. The focus of a Christian should instead be on knowing and loving God, and from that relationship, serving others according to the example Jesus provided.
Serving others according to the example we have in Jesus is a quality of having a servant heart.
5. Use your gifts in order to serve
God has given each of us certain gifts and talents that we are to use for serving others.
“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” (1 Peter 4:10)
In turn, serving others may be what God uses to touch their hearts and draw them to Him. Share the love of God by using your gifts to serve others. It’s another aspect of having a servant heart.
When you see others with a servant heart, what qualities have you seen that have drawn you to them? Are there other guiding principles for how we serve others well? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
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