Servant Leadership in Action
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage.” – Philippians 2:5-6
In the ancient world, people cared deeply about receiving honor. It’s why the Pharisees and religious leaders felt so threatened by Jesus. They saw his teachings as a threat to their status and prestige and worried that Jesus’ message might impact their standing in society.
Our world hasn’t changed much in 2,000 years. To this day, many people view power, wealth, and fame as primary metrics of success. Some crave these accolades so strongly that they will do anything to accumulate more – even at the expense of others.
One of the things so intriguing about Jesus’ story is his counterintuitive approach to honor and servant leadership. In Philippians 2 (a passage often referred to as “the Christ hymn”), Paul explains how Jesus abandoned his honorable position and took on the posture of a servant.
The striking contrast becomes even more apparent when you look at the original Greek language of the passage. Verse Six says that Jesus was “morphe Theou,” or “in the same form as God, but Verse Seven emphasizes Jesus’ decision to embrace “morphe doulou,” or the form of a servant. Jesus makes this transition in status by “emptying himself” or “making himself nothing” (depending on which translation you read).
This reminds me of the TV show “Undercover Boss,” where CEOs and top organizational leaders go undercover to work in the lower levels of their company. This show is engaging because we don’t expect to see people in power abandon their position in favor of a lower role.
Let us never forget that Jesus was the first “Undercover Boss.” Not only did he empty himself to embrace the nature of a servant, but he submitted himself to a cruel death on a Roman cross (Philippians 2:8).
Jesus didn’t just demote himself to a lower level – he willingly gave up everything for the benefit of others. Through his self-sacrifice, God exalted Jesus to the highest place and seated Jesus at his right hand. Jesus humbled himself to the lowest point imaginable and God exalted him to the highest possible place.
As we consider this story, let us constantly seek to follow in Jesus’ example by practicing authentic servant leadership and humbly valuing the wants and needs of others above our own. As the people of God, we have the power to change the world and bring God’s kingdom to Earth as we follow in Jesus’ example. And it all starts with abandoning the desire for power and status and embracing a desire to serve others in love.
“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” – John 13:13-15