Servant Leadership

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
Servant Leadership

“But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant.”

Mark 10:43

James and John had come to Jesus asking to share in his glory by sitting on his right and left hand (10:37). In such positions, they would receive both honor and exceptional authority. After Jesus explained to the brothers that they really had no idea what they were asking, the other ten disciples became upset. Partly they were angry over the arrogant audacity of James and John. It’s also likely that the other disciples secretly wished they had beaten James and John to the punch. They also wanted exceptional glory and power.

Jesus seized this teachable moment to reveal something radical about his understanding of leadership. Gentile leaders “lord it over their people” and “flaunt their authority” (10:42). But followers of Jesus must walk a different path. “Whoever wants to be a leader among you,” Jesus said, “must be your servant” (10:43). The Greek original of this reads more literally, “Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant.” The way of glory, the way of authority, the way of leadership is the way of servanthood. The word translated here as “servant” is diakonos, from which we get our word “deacon.” But the Greek word doesn’t refer to someone in church leadership. Rather, it denotes a person who serves in some subservient and humble role. A diakonos (The word sometimes referred to a table waiter.) cared for the needs of others rather than his or her own needs.

We who follow Jesus today are called to servant leadership. This notion can be as counterintuitive and countercultural as it was in the first century. Leaders in our day are often anything but servants as they seek power and glory. Following the way of Jesus will not be easy as we seek to serve, not only our superiors, but our colleagues and even those over whom we have organizational authority. Our focus will be, not on our own advancement or position, but on the needs and concerns of others. Whether we’re at home or in the workplace, at church or in the community, we will seek to be leaders who serve others in humility and love.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When you hear the phrase “servant leadership,” what or who comes to mind? What helps you to be a servant leader? Are there contexts in your life where you need to grow as a servant leader?

PRAYER: Thank you, Lord Jesus, for making it clear that your way is not the way of the world. We are to be leaders of an altogether different character. But, as you know, servant leadership doesn’t come naturally to us. Nor is it prized in our culture. Sometimes even the church exalts authoritarian and glorious leaders. So if we’re going to be servant leaders, we have our work cut out for us. To be more precise, you have your work cut out for you, Lord, as you transform our thinking and our attitudes.

Help me, Lord, to be a servant leader at work. May I see the needs of my coworkers and reach out to care for them. May I lift up those who are officially below me, seeking to honor them and acknowledge their contributions. Help me to exercise the authority given to me with humility, always seeing myself first and foremost as your servant, and therefore the servant of others. Amen.