Matthew 20:24-28 – “And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. 27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave — 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” NKJV
James and John’s mother was ambitious for her sons and wanted to insure they had prominent cabinet positions in the coming kingdom so she went to Jesus to request that they be given the two most noticeable and prominent positions at his side. What is often missed is that she did not come alone for it is clear that James and John were there and desired the same thing as is revealed in verse 22. This caused no small stir among the other disciples and the dissension became so heated that Jesus stepped in and presented a principle of leadership that too many miss.
Jesus addressed the carnal desire for preeminence in the world and how those in power like to lord their position and authority over those under them. He then told them that leadership in the Kingdom of God cannot and would not take that path. The principle was simple but powerful and difficult:
- Desire a position of authority?
Then you must demonstrate not only a willingness to serve and follow but you must actually do it. It is not enough to mentally ascribe to the principles and say all the right things about servant leadership you must BECOME a servant and serve.
That is something that few desiring to occupy position of leadership in or out of the church find palatable. Me serve? I was asked to mentor a young man once who wanted to become a pastor. When I addressed this principle with him he immediately informed me that those menial tasks I was assigning him was not befitting his education or calling and he would not do them. He could or would not accept the principle Jesus laid out and considered his seminary training an immediate qualification for leadership in the congregation. He would not serve and I could not allow him to lead.
- Become like Jesus.
If Jesus was willing to and actually became a servant then anything less from us is unacceptable.
In my years I have found both in the church and in secular business those who cannot or will not follow make terrible leaders. A person with an entitlement or elitist mentality makes a horrific leader. I served in the military with some who understood this principle and some who did not. I would have charged hell with those who did and resented those who did not. (Remember I was not serving God during that time). In business or in the church an individual that knows how to follow understands authority and cooperation whereas one that either will not, has not or cannot follow only knows arbitrary power not leadership, community or teamwork and either fail or become dictatorial tyrants and both are tragic.
If you want to ascend to a position of authority in the church or life learn to be a servant. God bless you as you go through your day!