A Servant’s Heart.

Sarah Palin in her acceptance speech as the Vice-Presidential nominee for the Republican party mention that those going to Washington need a servant’s heart. This lead me back to a something I wrote up about a year ago when I was asked to come up with a definition of Servant Leadership as well as to a sermon I preached a couple weeks ago on Philipians 2 entitled “The Attitude of Servanthood.”
Philippians 2: 3 – 8.
3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
12So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
Here the apostle Paul addresses a self serving attitude that encroached in the church. I fin that he clearly lays out what a servant leader and a servant’s heart looks like. He builds this image for us around the example presented to us by Jesus. After reading through this, I am left with five clear cut criteria for servant leadership.
1) A Servant Leader does not seek his/her own glory (v 3)
– Man is a selfish being and likes to get what he believes he deserves. Most of us are willing to do things for others if it means we will get something in return. We ask ourselves, “What is in it for me?” Even the story of Androcles and the Lion teaches us to do something nice, because we never know when it will come back to us. It is further exemplified in the traditions of Karma where we are told that if we do good things, then it builds up a store that will come back to us in kind. The opposite is also shown that if we do bad things, it also builds a store that will come back to us in kind. The popular TV show “My Name is Earl” is built around this concept. In fact, Karma seems to have replaced the Golden Rule’ “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Now at face value, you may ask, isn’t this teaching the same thing, but they do not. While Karma says do good things so you can get good things back, Jesus never said in the Golden Rule, “Do unto others and they will do the same unto you.” Now I understand that it is our natural desire to get a “return on our investment” whether that is receiving praise, recognition and even reward. The truth is everyone needs a pat on the back once in a while, but the question to ask is, “Does he/she do the job to get the pat on the back?” Jesus told the audience Matthew 6 that we are not to do our acts of righteousness for people to see. When we do, we have already received our reward. A servant leader does not do actions to receive recognition, they do their actions simply because it is what should be and needs to be done.
2) A Servant Leader places the needs of other ahead of his/her own (v 4)
– We have our plans and desire for what we want and want to accomplish. Society tells us to strive for those goals no matter the cost. The Nike slogan, “Just Do It” embrace this self serving, self gratifying desire within us. A servant leader, however, recognizes that sometime their personal goals and the greater mission are in conflict. Sometimes, for the greater good, we must forgo our own pleasures and rewars. A servant leader chooses to seeks the greater mission, even if it means setting aside personal goals to set the goals of someone else as the priority
3) A Servant Leader genuinely cares about other(v 4)
– Sometime, out of misplaced guilt or obligation we may be able to getpast our own selfishness long enough to help a person in need. But are we doing it because we care about that person or simply to give us the feeling that we have done something. Do we put our hearts into our actions or do we simply go through the motions. A Servant leader must have the right attitude with which they serve. Are their actions accompanied by constant grumbling about what they have given up and how little recognition they get? If so the attitude is missing. A servant leader does not place others ahead simply out of obligation, but because he genuinely cares about other people.
4) A Servant Leader does not see himself/herself as being too good for a job (vv 6-7) and is willing to take on the most humble/humiliating of task for the greater mission (v 8)
– We human beings are a prideful lot. We often think more highly of ourselves than we ought. It is very easy for us to see some jobs as being “beneath us.” We say, “I want to serve, but you don’t really expect me to do that?” A servant leaders sees how each part is crucial to the mission and realizes that no job is unimportant.
– Are we willing to take on those jobs that will make us ridiculed or even cause people to avoid us? A servant leader is willing to take on not only jobs that do not bring glory, but those that may cause other to look upon him/her with disdain, for the sake of the greater mission.
5) A Servant Leader find strength through a personal relationship with Christ. (v 13)
-While we can go through the motions and can think of other, it is only through the indwelling of the Spirit and the work of God in our lives that we can truly find the joy and strength to continue in service. An attitude of servant hood grows from a relationship with Christ.
Governor Palin is right. Those who go to Washington, should go with a servant’s heart, not seeking their own glory, but seeking the best for America. So, each of us must approach our lives, not seeking our own glory, but seeking to serve a world in need.
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