The Servanthood Paradox


"Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."
-Philippians 2: 3-4

As I've been reading through Philippians this month, this is the section that has most grabbed my attention. Because the world tells us to "look out for number one", to "take care of yourself", to "mind your own business", etc. And the world tells us that the way to live is to climb a ladder of success, where I/you end up on top... that THAT (being on top of everyone else) will be what brings success and joy.

But the Bible says something different, which seems paradoxical. Joy is found in counting others as more significant than myself. Do I do this?, I've been asking myself.
  • Do I count my husband as more significant than myself? Or do I take the "better" portion of dinner for myself? Do I seek to please him with what I cook and how I care for our home and children or is it my own interests I am most concerned with?
  • Do I count my children as more significant than myself? Do I meet their needs with the quickness and intensity with which I would meet my own?
  • Do I count family and friends as more significant than myself? Do I compassionately hear their concerns and diligently pray for them or am I quick to forget their hurts?
  • Do I count guests in my home as more significant than myself? Do I give them the most comfortable seat and serve them, seeing to their needs?
The amazing thing I've noticed is this: as I've begun intentionally, consistently putting others' needs ahead of my own, my own joy has increased. There is legitimate joy and pleasure in meeting the needs of others and humbly taking care of those that we love.

Feminists often deride this sort of role for a female as demeaning or humiliating. But when we act as a servant, even to those with whom we are "equal", we imitate Christ Himself. Look how the passage continues on, in verses 5-7:
"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men."
Did you catch that? Jesus made Himself nothing. Do I make myself nothing? Or do I complain and whine and grumble if I am treated like I am nothing? (If so, I need to see Philippians 2:14-- "Do all things without grumbling or questioning...", which is probably why Paul wrote it as part of the "therefore" to this passage.)

And did you catch the other interesting thing about that passage? The mind of JESUS- the mind that makes itself nothing and serves out of humility is MINE and YOURS if you are in Christ Jesus ("which is yours in Christ Jesus"). If you are a Christian by faith in Jesus, then this attitude is YOURS for the taking! All we must do is realize that the attitude and mind of Christ is available to us, and walk in it.

What a thrill it can be to serve the people around us... I pray that these personal musings will be helpful and challenging for you as they have been for me. Blessings~


Painting: Le lavement des pieds, Corinne Vonaesch, 2001

12 comments:

Terry said...

This is a great reminder because it is so easy for me to slip into "what about me?" mode. I also love that you addressed the attitude with which we do what we do. This is an important point. Well said.

MaryBeth said...

Hi Jess,
I have been reading your blog for a while(and am always encouraged by it) and just realized we are both expecting in March, this will be the first for my husband and I. You have also inspired me to read Philipians; I just finished Isaiah and was trying to decide what to read next, so thank you!

Alicia said...

I've lurked on your blog for awhile and I really enjoy reading it. (I'm a big Huckabee fan as well!) This post really encouraged me today. I've read that passage before, but this helped me think a little more deeply. Thanks!!

Terry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Terri said...

I needed to read this today. Thank you for the reminder.

Mrs. Elliott said...

Amen! What a wonderful exhortation and reminder about the important truth of developing a servant heart. Thanks again, Jess!

The Simple Shepherdess said...

Jess, I have been learning about and pondering the same topic, thought the scripture that brought it about for me was Proverbs 31. This goes right along with that...I'm going to take a deeper look into these verses in Philippians!

Britt said...

It's so easy to fall back into the "me" mode. This was a very encouraging reminder for me to have a servant's heart.

Jen said...

Awesome post! And very timely. I need to be reminded myself but I've also started an honor class with my boys where our verse today was Romans 12:10 "...Honor one another above yourselves"
We are looking for ways to honor (be a servant) to one another this week, which will hopefully start us looking at our actions in a whole new way.

FreeIndeed said...

Thank you soooooo much for this!

~Free

Buffy said...

Great post. Although I don't think it's right for people to be complete doormats it seems to have gone far too much the other way.

Many children are raised to put themselves first, their parents seem to think they are the most important people in the world. Now children probably are the most important people in the world to their own parents but what about everyone else's needs? Children have been raised to demand their own rights and everyone else can go to ykw.

Even when I was a child (1970s) the tide was changing. For example, my mother raised me to always put my guests first but this was rare in my friends' homes. My mother says that in Britain 'service' has become a bad word. Nobody wants to serve anyone anymore. We look down on anyone who wants to serve for a living.

deb said...

As always, great post. The bible is so counter culture. We are told by society that we will only be happy if we put ourselves first, but that isn't what the bible says. How wonderful it would be if all Christians put each other first.