This is my first shot at a devotional writing for my church’s webpage. The church has a blog page for daily readings (read through the Bible in a year)and a brief devotional to go with each one. This is a new kind of writing for me and was a bit of a struggle, but I’m hoping that someone is encouraged or experiences a nudge from the Holy Spirit through this piece.
Thoughts on Matthew 20:1-16; 20-24. Psalm 25:1-15. (also included with the read through the Bible scriptures for today was Exodus 10 – 12:13)
Today’s passages speak to the idea of servant-hood. Moses served God and his fellow Israelites. Through his obedience and service, God set the stage for the coming of Christ thousands of years before his birth. Passover laid the foundation for man to understand and know Jesus as the Lamb of God. Jesus teaches us about his kingdom and serving others – sacrificing all for the sake of many.
We read in Matthew the words of Jesus as he prods us on to servant-hood. He tells the parable of the vineyard workers and concludes with these words, “The last will be first, and the first will be last (New International Version). Just a few verses later we see James and John, wanting to be first and sit on the right and left of Christ; places held in high honor.
They didn’t get it. Didn’t Jesus just get through explaining to them that his grace is for all and is not measured based on seniority or rank? Some of us are also like James and John at times. We strive for recognition and long for an esteemed position. We look up to those in leadership and think, “Wow! I wish I could do that.” We read books like How to Win Friends and Influence People in an effort to gain power and strive to the top.
But Jesus teaches something different. He calls his disciples together and says, “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant…This is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served – and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage” (The Message). True greatness comes through a servant’s heart. It doesn’t come through being on stage, being on the church board, being the pastor, or teaching a Sunday School class. Those are all vital positions in the body of Christ, but it doesn’t take a leadership position to do great things for God.
Martin Luther King Jr. said it well: “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” (Martin Luther King Jr. as quoted in Even Eagles Need a Push p. 109). You may be a cashier at the corner market, a waitress at the local Dennys, a mechanic, or a housewife. If you adopt the heart and mindset of a servant, God can use you to accomplish great things.
I am reminded of the principal at the school where I work. She is known throughout the district as a great leader. Everywhere I go, I meet others who know her and often exclaim, “I’ve heard great things about her.” Or, “Oh, she’s a great principal!” What makes her so great? Why does she have a staff with high morale and a strong work ethic who often teach struggling students after hours, give up their prep period to lead extra-curricular activities, and return to school a week or two before contract days begin to prepare for their incoming classes?
She’s known as a great leader because she lives what she believes. Go through the cafeteria before school and you’ll find her opening milk cartons for little hands that can’t, wiping tables clean, and taking the time to voice positive encouragement to staff members. She leads through example and servant-hood, not through power and dictatorship. She listens to others and shows compassion to the hurting; staff and students alike. She gets it. It’s not through her position that she acquires greatness. It’s through her servant’s heart.
What are you doing to serve? Are you rolling up your sleeves and using your God-given talents for him? If not, ask the Lord to lead you as David said in today’s reading: “Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow” (New Living Translation).