“But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you
should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.”
In the last several days, we have been focusing on Luke 22:24-27, a passage
in which Jesus speaks of what I have called “otherwordly
leadership,” that is to say, leadership fit for the kingdom of God. So far, we
have seen how not to lead as citizens of this kingdom. Today, we begin to look
at the positive: how to lead in God’s kingdom.
Jesus begins by saying “Those who are greatest among you should take the
lowest rank” (22:26). This could be translated more literally, “The one who is
greatest among you should be as the youngest.” Given our culture’s virtual
worship of youthfulness, we might easily miss Jesus’ point here. His culture
prized age, with older people being granted greater honor than younger people.
Thus, the youngest would be the one with the least status.
Jesus continues, “[A]nd the leader should be like the servant” (22:26).
The word translated here as “leader” is actually a participle from the verb
hegeomai (related to the English term
“hegemony”). The verb means “to lead, guide, or supervise.” It implies the
rightful use of authority. The word translated in this verse as “servant” is a
participle from the verb diakoneo, which comes from the same root
as the word diakonos, the linguistic basis of our
word “deacon.” But the service Jesus envisions is
not in church. Rather, a diakonos was a table servant. The fact
that Jesus had this kind of service in mind is made clear in the following
verse. Thus, Jesus is saying that the one who leads should become as the one who
Notice, Jesus did not abolish the notion of leadership here. He did not say,
“None of you should be a leader.” In fact, he assumed that there would
be people in his kingdom who exercise authority in leading others. Yet, they are
to exercise their leadership in the mode of a servant. This notion of servant
leadership can be puzzling indeed, especially if we think of the servant as
someone who takes orders from an authority. How can a leader be a servant? Is
this even possible?
I’m going to leave this question with you today. I’ll pick it up again
tomorrow. For now, I’d encourage you to think about what sense servant
leadership makes. Who knows, you may even have a chance today to act as a
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How is it possible for a
leader to be a servant? Does Jesus’ vision of servant leadership make sense? Can
you think of situations in which you might be a servant leader today?
If you’d like to learn more
about Servant Leadership, read The Organizational Advantages of Servant Leadership by Howard
E. Butt, Jr.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank you for teaching us about
leadership. Thank you for this stirring and perplexing vision of servant
leadership. I must confess, Lord, that I am working hard to understand what you
mean. So I ask for the help of your Spirit. May I truly grasp what you are
saying in this text, and may I understand how it impacts my life.
Give me eyes to see, even today, how I might be a leader who is also a
servant. Help me to begin to put your teaching into practice in my workplace, in
my family, and in all of my relationships. Amen.