Bondservant

Scott Young | August 13, 2019

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Matthew 20:25-28

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 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 20:25-28

 

In today’s passage, the term servant is the Greek word diakonos, which means someone who follows the commands of another or attends to the needs of another. Jesus would later refer to the disciples in this way, as a description of how they should serve one another as leaders in the Church (deacons). 

The term “slave,” as used here, is the Hebrew word ebed or the Greek word doulos, which can be properly translated as “bondservant.

To the Jews, a bondservant was not a purchased slave or a hired worker. It was someone who had voluntarily given up his or her freedom to serve another. Because of this, bondservants held a position of honor and trust in the master’s family. (Matthew 25:14-30)

“Servants do not think of themselves in a lowly, demeaning way,” wrote Rick Ferguson in his book The Servant Principle, “They just don’t think of themselves.”

When a master accepted someone as a bondservant, the bondservant was marked as the master’s property, and their service usually lasted for life. The bondservant could not leave their master and their master could not send them away.

The term was used to describe Abraham, Joshua, David, and Isaiah. Even the Messiah is referred to as God’s servant. Peter, Paul, Titus, James, Jude, and John all referred to themselves as bondservants to Christ.

 

A dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be the greatest” (Luke 22:24)

 

It is in our nature to seek praise and recognition, to hold positions of authority or power. It is in God’s nature to condemn such ambition because of its self-centered, not God-centered, nature. Our selfish ambition envisions a kingdom where we are masters rather than a kingdom where we serve Christ and one another.

Jesus gave His disciples repeated examples of how to be great in God’s kingdom; feed the hungry, cloth the naked, care for the injured, heal the sick, love the unloved, endure scorn, hardship, torture, and death. Become a servant, even to the point of washing the dirt and manure off one another’s feet—even the feet of an enemy. (John 13: 2-5). Jesus was also instructing the disciples that their unity must stem from love for one another, a love that expresses itself in humble service.

 

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

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; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very natureof a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:1-8)

 

Questions for reflection and discussion: Has this understanding of a bondservant changed your view of what your relationship to Christ should be? Do you consider yourself a bondservant to Christ? If so, what examples do you have of that relationship? If not, what is preventing you from that commitment?

The devotionals this week were written by Scott Young. He and his wife, Nancy, have been members of WBC for more than 30 years.

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