To Serve Or To Be Served


As the Lord taught and preached in the first century, He was the living fulfillment of all the prophecies regarding the Messiah who would redeem mankind.  Even though His many miraculous works testified to this truth, many people refused to believe in Him because He did not meet their expectations of what the Messiah should be.  He came from humble origins and sought none of the trappings of power which were common in that time, and which were the core of the Jews’ expectations regarding the Savior.

Even the twelve men chosen by the Lord to be His apostles struggled with these things.  On more than one occasion the Lord scolded them because they were vying among themselves to see who would be number one.  In Mk. 10:35-41 James and John asked Jesus to elevate them to positions of importance, one on His left hand and one on His right, in His glory.  This made the other ten men angry and they became indignant with James and John.

In response to this incident, the Lord told them that they were acting just like the rulers of the Gentiles.  The world’s way was to strive for prominence, but it would not be this way among His disciples.  He told them that the one who wanted to be first among them must be the slave of all.  Then, in Mk. 10:45 the Lord said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  It took a long time for the twelve to learn this lesson, but they eventually got the message.  After the Lord’s ascension into heaven, they did indeed become servants and, with the exception of Judas, spent the remainder of their lives living up to the Lord’s admonition.

This is a principle that is often lost on modern believers.  Too many today treat the church as though it were a religious version of the “Make A Wish Foundation”.  They shop for a church with a laundry list of services that they want the church to provide for them.  They enter the worship assembly expecting to have their every desire fulfilled, like patrons in a restaurant.  They listen to the sermon, not to be encouraged toward righteous living, but in hopes of being entertained so they will feel good when they leave.  If the church doesn’t meet their expectations, they move on to the next one, and the next, until they find what they want.

The Lord’s teaching and example, however, stand in stark contrast to this attitude.  True believers do not come to Christ in order to be served.  They are moved by what the Lord did for them by shedding His blood on the cross for the forgiveness of their sins.  As a result, they know that they must serve Him.  They do this by serving each other, and by doing all within their abilities to help the church.  A true believer comes to the church with an eye toward what he or she may do to facilitate the church’s work.

In order to be the kind of disciple the Lord intends us to be we must take a different view of the church than most do.  To paraphrase President John F. Kennedy, we must ask not what the church can do for us, but ask what we can do for the church.  Instead of expecting the church to wait on us hand and foot, we should be looking for the ways in which we may serve the needs of the church.  We must do this because the church is us, and it can only do what we ourselves do.

The Lord said that to be great in the kingdom we must become servants.  When we humble ourselves and serve rather than being served, we honor our Lord, and we fulfill His expectations for us as disciples.