Characteristics of a Servant
1. Love of God – The most important characteristic of a servant is that he/she knows and loves God, and is continually striving to know God better.
• That is not to say that a servant must attain a certain spiritual level before they can serve. As St. Paul says, “not that I have already attained, or am perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that which Jesus Christ has also laid hold of me.” (Philippians 3:1).
• The servant must be at a higher spiritual level than those they are serving. “O Zion that brings good tidings, get thee up in the high mountain.” (Isaiah 40:9). This verse means that whoever teaches others about the heavenly matters, has to leave the earthly matters and has to stand on a high mountain.
2. Action and not words – The servant has to be a role model in that they serve by action and not words. Actions have the greatest impact on others. Thus we should minimize our lecturing and maximize our actions. Jesus shows us this when he talks about the cost of disciple ship and says, “Foxes have hole s and birds have their nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Matthew 8:20). Also, in the Epistle of St. James we read “Thus also faith in itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:17).
3. Humility – Humility is the foundation of service. It is humility that facilitate s every service and it is the lack of humility that destroys every service. The lack of humility serves as a big stumbling for others in service and to those whom we serve. To b e humble in service, we must understand who we are, where we cam e from, and where we are going. We must remember that
• We are not saviors. We cannot develop a Messiah complex. Our goal is only to bring others closer to Christ.
• It is not our right to serve. It is a Holy privilege. No one is qualified to serve, and none of us are worthy of it.
• We are all sinners. We are not perfect and we never will be perfect. So we are no better than our fellow servants nor are we better than those we serve.
• God does not need our service. The Church service will do just fine without us. On the contrary, we are in need of service in order to strengthen our spiritual life.
• We must know our identity. We must know who we are, where we came from and where we are going. We were made out of the dust of the ground: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).
• “Jesus, knowing that that Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded” (John 13:3-5).
• James and John – They asked Jesus that one sit on His left and the other on His right in the Kingdom (Mark 10:37). Jesus answered, “Ye t is shall not be so among you; but who ever desires to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever of you desires to be ﬁrst shall be slave of all” (Mark 10:43-45).
• Philippians 2:1-11 talks about unity through humility. Philippians 2:5-11 is sometimes called the Incarnation Song of St. Paul.
4. Responsible and Reliable – The servant must be mature, responsible and reliable. They must be serious about their service. The “faithful servant” that Jesus talks about in the Gospels (Luke 12:35-48 as well as the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30), is the one who take s their service seriously. The servants struggle does not stop until he “presents every man perfect in Jesus Christ,” as St. Paul says.
5. Maturity – The servant must be emotionally and spiritually mature in their service. They should be stable and balanced in their thoughts and actions. They must be able to with-stand problems with spiritual strength. They should never panic, get shaken, or lose control with anyone, including the Sunday school kids and their fellow servants. They must be psychologically stable and balanced so that they can serve as an example to others and not be a stumbling block. T hey must have good self- control, as this is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). A Sunday school servant must b e able to exercise authority in the right way, and with love, zeal, and live lines. They must experience what they speak. St. Paul speaks of spiritual maturity in Hebrews 5:12-14.
6. Obedience – Obedience, like humility, is one of the fundamental foundations of service. Obedience is the key to God’s heart. A servant must be obedient and respect the hierarchy and order laid down by the church. Obedience and humility are closely related. The humble servant is obedient, whereas when we lack humility, we also lack obedience. Part of obedience is being submissive, and to be submissive to God in our service is critical. St. Peter talks about being submissive in 1 Peter 5:5-6, when he says, “Likewise, you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” St. John (1 John 5:1-5) speaks about the importance of obedience by faith, and links obedience to keeping the commandments.
Examples of Obedience in the Bible:
– Abraham – Offering of Isaac
– Philemon – St. Paul calls on Philemon to be obedient and to take Onesimus back. “Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will even do more than what I say” (Philemon 21).
– Jesus was obedient to the point of death. St. Paul says in Philippians 2:8, “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, eve n the death of the cross.”
7. Self -Denial and Sacrifice – Self- denial and sacrifice involves giving our heart completely to God. “My son, give me your heart.” (Proverbs 23:36). Our heart cannot be divided between Go d and the things of this world. A servant must not love the world and the things of the world in all its forms. St. James says, “Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4). Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24). We have to deny ourselves from the things of this world in order to serve, which involves giving time to our service, being role models, exercising self-control, and being peacemakers.
8. Sincerity – There is no place for superficiality in service. A servant must always be sincere and deep to those they serve and to their fellow servants. Superficiality in service is a dangerous disease which leads to spiritual stagnation and decline. One of the signs of superficiality is when we start emphasizing the outside appearance rather than the internal. We will be deprived of spiritual blessings if we are not sincere in our service. Jesus commanded Simon Peter to go into the deep and cast his net. When he did that, he caught a great number of fish. Likewise, when we obey God’s voice to be spiritually deep, we receive abundant blessings.
9. One-on-One Service – This is the most important and highest form of service. This type of service typically occurs outside of the church. One -on-one service involves serving to the needs of others, individually, by giving the m words of encouragement, helping them with their problems, giving advice , helping them in their schoolwork, etc … One -on- one service should be done in secret, and we should not “sound a trumpet”, as Jesus says, when we serve others one -on- one . Jesus gives some great examples of one-on-one service in Matthew 25:35- 36.