Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
How far are you willing to go as a servant of Christ?
Two words are found in the New Testament for “servant.” One is diakonos and this word chiefly sees a servant in relationship to his work. It is the word from which we get our word “deacon” and it depicts humble service for Christ. The other word is doulos and this word chiefly sees a servant in relationship to his master, and is often translated “bond servant” or “slave.” This is the servant whose rights have been taken from him and he serves exclusively at the desire of his master. The word was used to describe the humility of Christ, who “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant (doulos)” (Philippians 2:7). Paul frequently used this word to describe himself as a “bond slave of Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:1) or a “bond slave of God” (Titus 1:1), as did Peter (2 Peter 1:1), James (James 1:1), and Jude (Jude 1).
In Galatians Paul described his service to God in terms of this sense of “servanthood”: “If I were trying to please men, I would not be the servant (doulos) of Christ” (Gal. 1:10). The servant is to have only one master and his devotion to this master is exclusive of anyone else’s influence and inclusive of all that the master tells him to do. As Christians our Master is Christ, and every believer is as much a “bond slave” of Christ as is the pastor or missionary. Yet the Lord calls us as His servants to serve others, as Paul wrote, “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants (doulos) for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5).
What does it mean to be servants like this? As God has allowed, this is a voluntary surrender of our rights in response to His love for us, and because we have come to a new understanding of life through the word of God and the inner witness of the Spirit. Just because it is a voluntary surrender does not make it optional for believers. It is the right response to the greatness of God and the reasonable response to love of God. The God we need and desire is not one that we can boss around, to whom we should whine and complain about how unfair life is – though in His graciousness He allows us to do this plenty. We need in our lives and truly desire in our hearts the God who is all powerful, mighty, holy, majestic, all wise, and limitless. We come to Him as the one True God in utter humility and acceptance of what He has for us, and in gratitude for His love.
Jesus told the brief parable emphasizing what it means to be a bond slave.
Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’
Roy Hession in his devotional classic Calvary Road, drew five traits of the bond slave from this parable.
1. He must be willing to have one thing on top of another put upon him, without any consideration being given him. On top of a hard day in the field the servant in the parable had immediately to prepare his master’s meal, and on top of that he had to wait at table - and all that before he had had any food himself. He just went and did it, expecting nothing else. How unwilling we are for this! How quickly there are murmurings and bitterness in our hearts when that sort of thing is expected of us. But the moment we start murmuring, we are acting as if we had rights, and a bond-servant hasn’t any!
2. He must be willing not to be thanked for it. How often we serve others, but what self pity we have in our hearts and how bitterly we complain that they take it as a matter of course and do not thank us for it. But a bond-servant must be willing for that. Hired servants may expect something, but not bondservants.
3. He must not charge the other with selfishness. As I read the passage, I could not but feel that the master was rather selfish and inconsiderate. But there is no such charge from the bondservant. He exists to serve the interests of his master and the selfishness or otherwise of his master does not come into it with him. But we? We can perhaps allow ourselves to be “put upon” by others, and are willing perhaps not to be thanked for what we do, but how we charge the other in our minds with selfishness! But that is not the place of a bond-servant. He is to find in the selfishness of others but a further opportunity to identify himself afresh with His Lord as the servant of all.
4. There is no ground for pride or self congratulation, but we must confess that we are unprofitable servants, that is, that we are of no real use to God or man in ourselves. We must confess again and again that “in us, that is in our flesh, there dwelleth no good thing,” that, if we have acted thus, it is no thanks to us, whose hearts are naturally proud and stubborn, but only to the Lord Jesus, who dwells in us and who has made us willing.
5. The bottom of self is quite knocked out by the fifth and last step - the admission that doing and bearing what we have in the way of meekness and humility, we have not done one stitch more than it was our duty to do. God made man in the first place simply that he might be God’s bond-servant. Man’s sin has simply consisted in his refusal to be God’s bond-servant. His restoration can only be, then, a restoration to the position of a bondservant. A man, then, has not done anything specially meritorious when he has consented to take that position, for he was created and redeemed for that very thing.
This is the servant attitude and if we will be of use to God and of help to others, we must get beyond all feelings that emerge from ourselves and our self interests, whether they be self pity, self praise, the desire for attention and recognition, or thoughts of unfair compensations, or whatever else there might be. And if these thoughts are to be avoided, then certainly any thought that would lean toward vengeance for disrespect or any maltreatment is completely out of the question. This is exactly where the devil finds his way into the lives of many servants of God, both lay and vocational. A little bit of complaining, a little grudge against another can rob us of the power of God in our service.
Returning to the Sermon on the Mount and Christ’s words, we notice that there is a blessing attached. This is the blessing that the unselfish servant enjoys that others with less commitment do not. There is no hint by Christ that this reward might be some kind of smugness or self-satisfaction. It is a blessing bestowed by God’s grace that is hidden in the hearts and lives of those who have followed and obeyed God despite the darkness of unbelief about them, even despite persecution, but it is a blessing given by God. The one who is obedient and faithful, who serves with no expectation of any praise or gratitude, finds a fulfillment in life that is unparalleled. He or she consider themselves blessed, not cursed. The “servant” who complains has failed to capture this attitude, and the Lord Jesus only seemed to say, Try it and you will see.
So shall we try it and see? Shall we put aside all grumbling and complaining and with humility and gratitude follow Christ. This is precisely the attitude that is elsewhere described as dying to self and living to God, and the resurrected life is felt the keenest in the one who has no self-consciousness about him, only gratitude to God for the privilege of being in His family.
Lord, teach us what it means to be servants, bond slaves to the Lord of Love. Lead us down the path of crucifixion with You, that we might live in your resurrected life. Forgive us for our complaints and whining, and give us the pure joy and peace that belongs only to the selfless servant. Amen.
 Roy Hession, Calvary Road, “Are You Willing to Be a Servant?”