Coming in First

“‘Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’”—Matthew 20:26-28 (NIV)

Have you ever felt beat down and mistreated by someone above you? Perhaps not directly, but we certainly can look to the various oppressive political regimes of the world throughout history for a glimpse. One of those examples includes the Roman Empire in Jesus’ time! Though arguably not the worst of oppressive regimes, the majority of Romans undoubtedly mistreated those beneath them and abused the leadership roles they held. In Matthew 20:25 (NIV), Jesus states, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.”

Yet, the Bible still highlights and praises many faith-filled people who held similar positions of leadership. That’s how we know God is not calling us to take a seat and not be leaders in our communities! In the case Jesus speaks of, the connotation behind the Greek words used for “lord” and “exercise authority” relate mostly to our word for “domineering,” which means ruling with arrogance. Therefore, this passage is so vital because it underscores the key differences between worldly leadership and biblical leadership: humility and service.

Jesus’ paradoxical statement was extremely counter-cultural at the time, and it still is today! Although many secular institutions and non-Christians in our modern society agree with the concept of servant leadership, the concept is not often executed nor taught. Thankfully, though, Jesus does not leave His disciples clueless about how they can live this way; rather, He points them to Himself saying “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28 NIV).

Jesus never lacked in confidence because He had full assurance of His identity as the Son of Man and the Son of God. He knew whose He was and why He was. At the same time, though, He embodied humility. He never flaunted His power for the sake of showing off or proving Himself, but He also never allowed people to take advantage of Him. Additionally, He sacrificed Himself so that our broken and hopeless relationship with God would be reconciled and restored regardless of our past, our race, our gender, or our political party!

Looking to Christ, we can find inspiration and direction for our servant leadership. He first served and loved us; therefore, we can now serve and love both Him and those around us! As we seek to lead in this way, we can know that in the kingdom of God, the last shall be first and the first shall be last (Matthew 20:16), but ultimately, we serve the highest of them all—Jesus Christ our Lord!

PAUSE: Why is it hard for you to be a servant leader? What does God have to work on in your heart?

PRACTICE: Serve someone you typically would not serve today, or try serving in a way you typically would not serve. Make sure you do so with a heart of humility knowing that God first served and saved you undeservingly!

PRAY: Dear Jesus, You are so kind and so good! Thank You for serving me not only on the cross, but each and every day! I ask that You would create in me a servant's heart so I may love and lead in the way You did and for Your ultimate glory. Amen.

About the Author

Samantha Rodriguez

Samy Rodriguez has been serving with the Calvary writing team since 2020 as a senior at Calvary Christian Academy. Before going to study communications, biblical studies, and intercultural studies at Palm Beach Atlantic University, she interned with the Calvary Communications Team and was a student leader in HSM (High School Ministry). She is passionate about communicating God’s Word and looks forward to continuing to serve in ministry after college.