The Symptoms of Servanthood


Bernard of Clair Vaux once said, “Learn the lesson that, if you are to do the work of a servant, what you need is not a scepter but a hoe.” The symbolism should be obvious: A scepter is all about ruling and having others serve you. A hoe is about humbly working for the benefit of others. To anyone who professes to be a follower of Jesus, who best exemplified servanthood, the only appropriate response to what He has done for us is faithful service for the benefit of others.

Warren Weirsbe’s On Being a Servant of God is one of the best books I’ve ever read on the subject. I highly recommend it, and especially to anyone who is, or aspires to be, in full-time ministry. However, it’s not just for vocational ministry, as every Christian has been called to serve others. Can you honestly, from your heart, call yourself a servant of Jesus Christ? And how do we know if we really are serving him? What might that look like?

1. Humble Service

Humility is the chief characteristic of servanthood. Jesus, in humbling himself, “gave up his divine privileges; and took the humble position of a slave.” (Philippians 2:7 NLT) Being humble is not thinking less of yourself, just thinking of yourself less. It’s a willingness to give up personal rights for the benefit of others.

There’s actually a difference between serving and being a servant. Some serve with self-serving motives. They serve at their own convenience and without sacrfice. True servants minister selflessly out of a heart of gratitude for what God has done for them. Jeremy Taylor, 17th century English pastor wrote: “Love to be concealed, and little esteemed: be content to lack praise, never be troubled when thou art slighted or undervalued.” Great advice for would-be servants.

2. Spirit-led Service

Serving the Lord requires a sensitivity to what’s going on around us and recognizing opportunities to be a channel of blessing to others. It’s a thoughtfulness that comes from daily surrender to Christ and allowing the Spirit to guide us throughout the day. Thomas Kelly wrote: “God never guides us into an intolerable scramble of panting feverishness.” For servants of Jesus Christ that means we minister through the daily occurrences and routines of life as the Spirit leads.

For servants of Jesus Christ...we minister through the daily occurrences and routines of life as the Spirit leads.

And do not think the Spirit always leads you to do some great thing. Often, he will guide you to small tasks and may use those little acts of service in a great way. Someone said, “Great virtues are few and far between, but the ministry of small things is a daily sacrifice.” It might involve an encouraging word, a simple hug, a card expressing gratitude, or helping a co-worker do his job.

3. Faithful Service

The apostle Paul often referred to himself as a bond-slave of Jesus Christ. Such servitude was a lifetime commitment rooted in his love for the Savior. It was how he viewed his whole life. True servanthood isn’t just something we do occasionally but rather a mindset that is ingrained to our identity as Christians. It will act spontaneously and consistently whenever need arises.

As a pastor, I’ve had people who have served in a particular area for a long time say, “Okay, I’ve done my time, now let someone else do this.” While there may be a time and place for a change of ministry, there’s never a time to quit. Our Lord’s sacrificial service endured till his last breath.

Someone recently commented to me that Florida is full of retired people living for themselves. I certainly do not believe that’s true of every senior in the state. However, there is a mindset that views retirement as a time to serve self, take it easy, and spend your last years enjoying life. That is not a bibical perspective. Serving Jesus should be a lifelong commitment that ends with, “well done good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23)

To my brothers in Christ, let us examine our hearts and determine if we’re serving ourselves or the Savior. By the grace of God, let us endeavor to serve him who loved us and gave himself for us, and to serve humbly, led by the Spirit, and for all of life.

Three symptoms of what it really looks like to be a servant of Christ.