What makes a servant? What motivates a person to serve God and others? What is there about the heart of this person which sets him apart from others?
When Jesus arose from that last supper and washed the dirty feet of his disciples, he asked them, “Know ye what I have done to you?” Interesting question. It turns out he had given them an object lesson in servanthood. Not only that evening, but throughout his entire ministry, he had shown them the heart of a servant. If we can pick up on these things, and why it is so essential that we incorporate them into our lives, we will be richly blessed. “If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them,” (Jn. 13:17).
1. A servant is humble. The selflessness of laying aside his garments, girding himself with a towel, and methodically washing the feet of each of these men, is surpassed only by the fact that he was Almighty God. A servant puts aside his own comfort and convenience, and focuses on the needs and desires of others. How can he do this? By humbly devaluing himself, and elevating others. “Doing nothing through faction or through vainglory, but in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself; not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others. Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus,” (Phil. 2:3-5). If we truly think of others as better than (more valuable than) ourselves, servanthood becomes natural.
But it’s not easy. Humility is a radical concept in the current culture. We are taught to exert our strengths over others, assert our rights, and refuse to be victimized. From early childhood, we are taught to be competitive, better than others, and the best in the class. The habit of viewing others as superior is strange to us, and takes concentrated effort to master.
A servant lets others go first. He holds the door while they enter before him. He gives up his seat so that they may sit and be comfortable. He yields to their desires. He does not complain that the thermostat is set at their comfort level, or that the TV channel is on their station. They are better than him, and he knows it. Their wishes take priority. He is a servant.
2. A servant is compassionate. Do you really care how others feel? Do you feel their pain, their needs? A servant does. A servant is sympathetic to the plight of others. He wants to help make them more comfortable and successful. It matters not that their requests are inconvenient, or possibly even irrational. He cares about how they feel.
Can you imagine the physical pleasure and relief of having your tired, dirty feet graciously cleansed with cool water by the loving hands of the Savior? “A cup of cold water” given to a weary child of God is such a momentous act that God himself notices it and later rewards it, (Mt. 10:42).
A servant cannot bear to see someone suffer. He makes the best nurse, the best doctor, the best counselor, the best caregiver, because he truly cares. It’s more than a job, a task, or a duty. He is eager to do it because he sees the need for it—someone is hurting.
3. A servant is visionary. In order to perceive the truth of Jesus’s statement, “the first shall be last and the last shall be first,” a person must look beyond this life, and into eternity. He must view things beyond the temporal, the physical. He must see things as they really are, in view of eternity. Small acts of kindness and service to others affect things long-term.
In the years which followed the last supper, do you think Jesus’ disciples could ever get it out of their memory? Could they ever forget how he had washed their feet? Surely that was a life-changer. “Know ye what I have done to you?” How could they? From their limited perspective, the impact of such a profound lesson could not yet be seen. But it would be. It would be later, time and time again, because the servant was a visionary.
A servant sees the importance of what he is doing. He can imagine the possibilities. This is not just a task to be checked off the list. It is not simply a matter of fulfilling a job description, or satisfying expectations. It’s not about staying out of trouble. It’s about making a difference in the lives of others which extends into eternity. It’s about saving souls. Lord, give us the heart of a servant!
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.