Christians often refer to themselves as “servants of the Lord” (1 Cor. 3:5; 2 Cor. 6:4; Phil. 1:1; James 1:1). Many times the word used is doulos, meaning “slave” or “bondservant.”
Slavery was common in the first century. Paul’s letters to the Ephesians, Colossians, to Titus and Philemon all have advice for people who played that humble role in society. Because it was common, slavery was a metaphor for the Christian’s total devotion to God. But because a Christian’s slavery to God is far different from the service rendered to corrupt human masters, many spiritual slaves make mistakes in their thinking. Here are some examples.
- Asking, “What is required?” Being a servant, of course, means having boundaries. Far too many of us want to get as close to the line of sin as possible and as far from the line of sacrifice as possible. Instead of asking, “What is required?” our question as slaves ought to be, “What more can I do?”
- Expecting to serve less than Jesus. After Jesus humbly washed his disciples’ feet, he said, “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him” (John 13:15-16). Jesus came not to be served but to serve (Matt. 20:28). Why should we, his servants, expect to do any less?
- Expecting to be praised for our service. Jesus asked his disciples whether a master praised his servant because the servant performed his duties and then drew this conclusion: “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty'” (Luke 17:7-10). That ought to be our attitude —“We are unworthy servants.” If we do well, the Lord will commend us, even though we do not deserve it (Matt. 25:21).
- Confusing humility with degradation. Maybe service seems beneath you. Think again. Humility is the only way to greatness. Jesus told the arrogant Pharisees, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matt. 23:12).
Are you a servant of Christ? There is no other Master who will lead you to eternal life.