We live in a world that assumes leadership as implying being served by other people. If there is anything wrong with this world, it comes from the misplaced assumption that leaders are gods. What can be taken as an axiom, on leadership, is that one becomes a leader, only when capable of serving others. The starting point is in knowing that leadership implies unselfishly serving other people.
Traditionally, a leader is considered as honorable, in society. This was the trend, in times of Jesus, although His teachings sought to reverse this. On several occasions His disciples raised the question of leadership with Jesus. Nevertheless, the principles of leadership is among the fundamentals for which Jesus came onto this planet.
The two sons of Zebedee, were willing to do anything to acquire leadership positions. But, what could have motivated them to desire leadership positions? Scriptures do not precisely show, yet Jesus appears as having been aware of their assumption of advantages in leadership. People view leadership as advantageous, although Jesus showed the opposite:
“Jesus answered, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We are able.’ He said to them, ‘You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.’ And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’” (Matthew 20:22-28) (ESV).
It is important that we analyze this passage, carefully. By making such a request the two brothers did not know what they were asking. They had assumed leadership as being advantageous. It is natural for ordinary humans to desire that which is advantageous, as Jesus also understood. Hence, stating that those two brothers did not know, exactly what they were asking.
In His attempt to connect with their intentions, Jesus then posed a question: “Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” The two gentlemen quickly answered positively—as willing to do anything—in order to get what they wanted. But they still could not understand the implications of leadership. They were thinking in terms of being served, instead of serving other people.
Jesus then gave a rejoinder that they did not want to hear: ‘You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.’ Jesus knew their motives—hence saying they did not know what they were asking. Service implies consideration of others as more important—being the opposite of what had been in their minds.
The other disciples became indignant of their behavior. Those ten may have also not been aware of what was in the mind of Jesus. To them, desiring leadership meant desiring being served. Yet their indignation arose from also assuming that leadership implied being served by others. The great teacher, then took time to teach them the actual significance of leadership:
“……‘you know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’” (Matthew 20:25-28).
The gentile kingdoms were trend-setters in customs and traditions of human behavior. The Jews had, all along, been influenced by gentiles, in their behavior. Leadership was considered as promotion—desired by everyone. Yet, to His disciples, Jesus indicates that leadership implied servitude. In other words, when serving others like a slave, one becomes a true leader.
The question is: How does one agonize in servitude and be a leader, at the same time? Jesus puts it aptly: “…’whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” (Verse 28).
A slave works extremely hard for his slave masters, without expectation of rewards, necessarily. This is why Jesus realized that the two brothers did not know what they were asking. The perfect example of servitude is as was displayed by Jesus—giving His own life as a ransom for many.
Indeed, Jesus never reduced Himself to desiring to be worshiped in this world. But He committed Himself to never turn down anyone who needed His services—healing or being fed. He had no time to rest—yet He never complained. This included being visited by Nicodemus at night (John 3:1).
When Jesus said He came not to be served but to serve, He included rejecting being worshiped—though deserving to be worshiped. His comfort was in serving other people. As focusing on servitude, He did not even take offense when some fools suggested that He cast out demons by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of the demons (Matthew 12:24).
“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:30-32) (ESV).
Jesus was aware of there being people who were against Him. But He did not begrudge them. The Trinitarians assume Jesus prefers being worshiped. But Jesus was of service to the sinful people, instead. The Holy Spirit is God—being the only one deserving service—as not to be blasphemed (Verse 31). This is as reiterated in the Decalogue, given to the Israelites through Moses:
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Exodus 20:7) (ESV).
In its truest application, servitude implies avoiding offense by one’s master. Being a servant ought to be understood in the context of servitude—not in the context of being a master. Jesus was very clear of what servitude meant—hence He could not be offended by those suggesting that He was demonic. Unfortunately, those using His name today—demand service from ordinary people.
Those ordinary people are taught the very opposite of what Jesus taught (Matthew 20:25-28). This is how the devil has, this far, managed to manipulate the teachings of Jesus, as to deceive the entire world. Starting with Catholicism, Christianity is an institution that is idolized. Let alone the actual personalities holding positions of authority—the Pastors and Bishops.
Instead of being the light of the world, Christians cause confusion in political governance and corporate business world. As Christian ministers are treated reverently in Christianity, government ministers assume that they also deserve reverence. All this portrays the opposite of what the author of Christianity taught.
One would not be far from wrong in stating that all our problems emanate from a yawning leadership vacuum. The positions of leadership are held by Masters, not by servants, according to Jesus. Those people feel they deserve to be served, rather than considering themselves as servants.
Government leaders cannot see anything wrong with that kind of behavior. They copy from those supposed to be light-bearers (Christians). The common people cannot see what is wrong. Some Christians, actually, hate opposition politicians—viewing them as unrespectful of those in leadership. The most convenient scripture—but, taken out of context is Romans 13:1-3:
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval” (Romans 13:1-3) (ESV).
To start with, authority is vested on all humans. In a marital situation, the husband is the head of the house, according to Paul (Ephesian 5:22-33). But what husband would be an authoritarian over his wife? Paul, actually, used Jesus’ example of serving the Church—being how husbands should treat their wives.
My own son is a graphic designer. Though being my son, I have to submit to him, when desiring to be helped in graphic designing services. In that respect my son would be in authority over me, though being my son. If I fail to effectively submit to my son’s authoritarian position in graphic designing, I cannot access the benefits of graphic designing from him. According to Paul, there is no authority that is not instituted by God, under the sun.
The only important question would be whether my son would, actually, be the authority in graphic designing, or not? If truly a graphic designer, why should I not grant my son authority—as qualified in graphic designing—so long as I need such services? While Paul appears as implying authority as extended to political governance, what he says is applicable to any other area of responsibility. Any person becomes an authority in some area of his or her qualified responsibility. That person needs not be resisted, unnecessarily.
Jesus came to bring light, including what leadership entails. Christians ought to have projected light in their way of conducting themselves in Church endeavors. They would have done so, by following Christ’s example of what servitude implies. The apostle Paul took time to teach about principles of leadership to the Corinthians—as covered in the whole Chapter of 1 Corinthians 12. He also implored Christians to change their mind-sets—in one of his epistles:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; he one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:1-8) (ESV).
The most important point that Paul puts across being that whoever holds some responsibility, ought to do so with the spirit of servitude. The transformation of the mind requires coming out of this foggy idea of assuming that leadership bestows some package of being served by others. Of course, nothing suggests that servant leaders ought to be despised, or treated badly. It, actually, turns out to be impossible to badly treat leaders who apply what Paul recommends.
Jesus was treated badly, only by those who did not value His services. But that did not impede the services of Jesus. Those benefitting from His services could not avoid appreciating such services. People tend to naturally idolize people who provide best services towards them. Their love for those serving them would be driven by sincere reciprocation—not as demanded by such unselfish servants.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.
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