“If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and a servant of all.” - Mark 9:35b
This is an often quoted saying of Jesus, and also, I would argue, one of the least followed. Here in America, this adage is completely counter cultural - not simply socially, which I’ve heard preached on before, but politically and economically. We live in a society that screams at us to put ourselves first on every front: “My views, my opinions, my financial security, my comfort, my needs matter most.” I don’t think anyone who has endured the past few years could disagree.
This is also a teaching which is easily skewed into an excuse to belittle and devalue oneself.
So, what does this mean? What does it look like to be a servant of all?
First off, it means we are called to put aside our earthly desires to help others. Does this mean we can’t have goals, hopes, or dreams? Of course not. Oftentimes, God places those yearnings in our hearts. But, it is important to guard our steps, because those desires can lead us to paths of vanity, egotism, or self-righteousness. Conversely, they can also lead us to glorify God, uplift others, and become truly humble. If the path you're following is hurting others or leading you away from God, there’s a good chance you’ve stopped being a servant of all and starting serving only yourself.
Second, we are called to live humble lives. It means recognizing that we are no better than anyone else on this earth; and also, that every other person is just as valuable and loved by God as we are. Remember, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23) and “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).
Lastly, it means letting go of pride and even comfort for the benefit of others. Someone cut in front of you in line? Took that parking spot you were eying? Expressed an opinion you disagreed with. Take a moment. Think. Does this instance really matter in the grand scheme of things? Nine times out of ten the answer is “absolutely not.” So, you have to wait an extra minute, walk a few more feet, or stomach your friend’s terrible taste in literature - these are not problems for the kingdom of God. You, rising up in anger? Now that is. Think of all the anguish that could be spared if more people lived from this servant mindset, instead of a selfish one.
So, I urge you, follow Jesus’ example. Be the servant, the least, the humble. Be the person God is calling you to be - a peacemaker.
Dear Lord, it seems harder than ever to live as a servant to all. There are so many things I want, things I think I need or deserve, but that are really nothing more than earthly treasures. Help me release these desires. Help me to follow You, to put aside my pride, to stop putting myself first, and to humble myself for the sake of Your peace. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.