How to Lead in the Kingdom of God, Part 1

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
Default article daily reflection

“But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.”

Luke 22:26

In the last several days, we have been focusing on Luke 22:24-27, a passage in which Jesus speaks of what I have called “otherwordly leadership,” that is to say, leadership fit for the kingdom of God. So far, we have seen how not to lead as citizens of this kingdom. Today, we begin to look at the positive: how to lead in God’s kingdom.

Jesus begins by saying “Those who are greatest among you should take the lowest rank” (22:26). This could be translated more literally, “The one who is greatest among you should be as the youngest.” Given our culture’s virtual worship of youthfulness, we might easily miss Jesus’ point here. His culture prized age, with older people being granted greater honor than younger people. Thus, the youngest would be the one with the least status.

Jesus continues, “[A]nd the leader should be like the servant” (22:26). The word translated here as “leader” is actually a participle from the verb hegeomai (related to the English term “hegemony”). The verb means “to lead, guide, or supervise.” It implies the rightful use of authority. The word translated in this verse as “servant” is a participle from the verb diakoneo, which comes from the same root as the word diakonos, the linguistic basis of our word “deacon.” But the service Jesus envisions is not in church. Rather, a diakonos was a table servant. The fact that Jesus had this kind of service in mind is made clear in the following verse. Thus, Jesus is saying that the one who leads should become as the one who serves.

Notice, Jesus did not abolish the notion of leadership here. He did not say, “None of you should be a leader.” In fact, he assumed that there would be people in his kingdom who exercise authority in leading others. Yet, they are to exercise their leadership in the mode of a servant. This notion of servant leadership can be puzzling indeed, especially if we think of the servant as someone who takes orders from an authority. How can a leader be a servant? Is this even possible?

I’m going to leave this question with you today. I’ll pick it up again tomorrow. For now, I’d encourage you to think about what sense servant leadership makes. Who knows, you may even have a chance today to act as a servant leader!

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How is it possible for a leader to be a servant? Does Jesus’ vision of servant leadership make sense? Can you think of situations in which you might be a servant leader today?

If you'd like to learn more about Servant Leadership, read The Organizational Advantages of Servant Leadership by Howard E. Butt, Jr.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank you for teaching us about leadership. Thank you for this stirring and perplexing vision of servant leadership. I must confess, Lord, that I am working hard to understand what you mean. So I ask for the help of your Spirit. May I truly grasp what you are saying in this text, and may I understand how it impacts my life.

Give me eyes to see, even today, how I might be a leader who is also a servant. Help me to begin to put your teaching into practice in my workplace, in my family, and in all of my relationships. Amen.