GOD’S PEOPLE WILL SERVE
Today’s Scripture: “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.’” Matthew 20:25-27, ESV
Theme: Labels of power and weakness aren’t to influence God’s people; all must serve.
What labels do we prefer? It’s telling when we display messages on our clothing, personal effects, cars, laptop cases, instruments, or as tattoos on our bodies. I’ve displayed words on stickers on the back of my laptop. I’m turning it around now so I can share them. They are: “Race girl,” “Yeti here’s to the wild,” “Physics is good for you,” and “Alligator River national wildlife refuge.” I am surprised at this display. I did not think long and hard about those words when I applied the stickers. I’ve worn words on my shirt, car, mug, in my home, and on social media. I have advertised my activities, my interests, implied intellect, physical fitness, and affluence. What I don’t often display is a label such as a retail worker’s name tag that says, “How can I help?”
HERE TO SERVE
Based on the labels I have chosen, I may expect excellent service, respect, or admiration. Those aren’t the labels Jesus calls us to assume. How often have I tried to be a “great one” to “exercise authority”? (Matthew 20:25, ESV). Jesus calls us to greatness by way of service. “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave” (Matthew 20:26b-27, ESV). I hope for greatness and notoriety. I elevate myself and “my” people. Conversely, Jesus was great and yet humbled Himself and calls us to humility, too. He also humbles others, including you and me, when we don’t humble ourselves. Power doesn’t look good on me. Authority doesn’t either. Allowing those labels to influence my idea of who I am or what I should be expected to do is not Jesus’ way. It’s my way. It’s culture’s way. It is the worldly way. Serving is for everyone who follows Jesus - great and lowly.
WRITE IT ON YOUR DOORFRAME, WEAR IT ON YOUR FOREHEAD AND HAND
There is a place in the Bible where God tells His people, Israel, to remember things by displaying labels. “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:8-9, NIV). What is to be displayed? I’d prefer to display my hard-earned title, successful company, church name, or accomplishments. The Jewish people call it the Shema. Jesus, as a Jew, would have known the words and said them in the morning and at night each day. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5, ESV). There is only one God. I’m not Him. He competes with nothing. If we didn’t understand the first time, that includes no competition in our hearts, souls, and might. No matter what other labels or notoriety we have acquired, no one who claims to follow Jesus is above serving. God calls His people to be servants.
Make It Personal: What labels do you wear or display? How do they point you to—or distract you from—your position: a child of God and a servant with God. How does the idea of a great servant sit with you? Why? Pray the prayer below and recite the Shema as a prayer with me. Say it, as the Jews do, morning and evening for a few days, this week.
Pray: Lord God, I am overwhelmed today by all of the ways I’ve tried to take on labels that don’t fit. I’ve tried to be my own God, an influencer, someone worthy of respect, and yet You know all the ways that I’m not that at all. Please give me the humility of a servant, and the confident hope of an heir. You are God. You are One. I will take a moment and repeat the prayer that your people have prayed, and still pray today.
Shema: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, ESV)
Read: Deuteronomy 6:3-15, Deuteronomy 11:18-25
Weekly Memory Verse: “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7b, ESV