First place is seen as a position to be admired and sought-after. In fact, we often strive to push ourselves up the ladders of success, career and reputation in order to gain notoriety and a sense of self-importance. We learn from a young age that being first is a desirable pursuit, and our own flesh within us wants nothing more than to be admired and esteemed by others. But what does the Bible have to say about this type of quest?
Luke 13:30 And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.
Our own ideas of who should be elevated and who shouldn’t is very carnally-minded. We think that those who push the hardest for the top position by making the most noise, achieving the highest education and gaining the greatest following means they deserve to be number one. But the flesh’s ways are completely opposite to God’s ways.
To be the greatest in the world, is to be the most admired – to be the greatest in the Kingdom of God, is to be the choicest servant.
The greatest among you shall be your servant.
At one point, the twelve disciples were arguing amongst themselves about who was the greatest (Mark 9:34), but Jesus told them plainly, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35).
In order for us to achieve this kind of position, our attitude must change and instead of being allied to the world, it must be aligned to God’s Word so that this is not a work of ours that we strive to attain, but a sincere willingness to lay down our own ambitions in order to sacrifice for others – completely laying ourselves down on the altar and allowing God to use us as He sees fit.
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.
The only way we’re able to achieve this kind of servanthood is by humbling ourselves (Colossians 3:12). A proud person never lowers themselves to the required position in order to be a genuine servant. When we build ourselves up in pride, what we’re doing is telling ourselves that we deserve to be loved, adored, admired and treated well. Pride makes us feel good about self; exalting and even idolising me, myself and I. This attitude is completely self-indulgent and is a sure way to lead to destruction. Pride comes before a fall and the fall from pride is very great (Proverbs 16:18). If we don’t humble ourselves now while we’re here on Earth, God will humble us later!
For the LORD of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up--and it shall be brought low...
What a fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of a living God—especially if we’re standing in our own self-righteousness—otherwise known as pride.
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
On Jesus’ final night with the disciples, did He demand to be pampered and doted on, especially knowing what He was about to face for them? Instead of doing what we in our carnal hearts would do, Jesus chose to place Himself in a humble position and performed an unappealing, selfless task – He washed the disciples’ feet.
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
Not only did Jesus perform this undesirable task, but He commanded His followers to do the same.
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”
In order to be a true servant, we must let go of our own ambitions, reputation and any notions of self-importance. We cannot hold on to selfishness when we’re serving others. We must choose one or the other. In order to serve as Jesus did, we must be willing to take a back seat as it were – to let others have the better position and give others the things you’d like to have yourself.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Whatever we do, we should never be doing it for wrong reasons; accolades, attention, favour (from men or God) or anything else. Whatever we do should always be done from a right heart – a heart of godly love.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
When we serve others the way God showed us to, we are in actual fact serving the Lord. Whatever we do for the least of these, we do for Him (Matthew 25:40). As ambassadors of Christ, we must imitate Him and His ways -- and by humbling ourselves: being willing to be one who is overlooked, rejected, ignored and abased is to be an authentic servant of our God.
1 Peter 3:8
Finally, all of you, be like-minded and sympathetic, love as brothers, be tender-hearted and humble.
Being a true servant comes at a cost…and the cost is high. We must realise the cost of being a real disciple of Jesus, and in order to genuinely love one another, we must be willing to let go of our own self-worth, and subserviently take the lower position of being a servant as unto the Lord.
Let’s ask the Lord to help us to be true, genuine servants, honouring Him in all we do, showing real love for others—even towards those who hate us, for to be like this is to be a sincere believer and testimony of Jesus Christ.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
-- By Jenny Ayling
This article was written to form part of the series, 'Imitate'. Containing 45 sessions, this thorough series intends to reveal the characteristics found in a disciple of Jesus. The original article, 'Imitate', would be the best place to begin your journey in discovering the qualities of a follower of the Messiah of Israel.