FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
ON SERVANT LEADERSHIP
BEING A SERVANT LEADER
March 3, 2015
Today’s gospel: Matthew 23:1-12
We are all servants of our Master, the Lord Jesus, and those who are called to become leaders are to be servant leaders. We might think that that indeed would be the way in the spiritual body that is the Church, but most often, those who serve as leaders in the Church become just like their secular counterparts.
Such were the religious leaders during Jesus’ time, the scribes and the Pharisees. Today Church leaders might say and teach the right things, but their hearts would not be right. They are leaders but do not have servants’ hearts. “For they preach but they do not practice.” (v.3b). How do leaders fail in servanthood? It is when they succumb to pride, power and position. All three are inter-related.
* Pride. “All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.” (v.5).
* Power. “They tie up heavy burdens (hard to carry) and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.” (v.4).
* Position. “They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’” (v.6).
How does the above translate to today’s “servant leaders”?
* Trumpeting one’s accomplishments rather than just quietly working without fanfare or acclaim.
* Being self-referential, considering how any action would redound to either personal or group benefit rather than just to the benefit of Christ and his Church.
* Sulking (in Pilipino, “tampo”). When one does not get his own way, or is relieved of his service, or is corrected, one does such things as resigning or even leaving community.
* In instances where one does not agree with the directive of his superior, not clarifying or trying to work out things but just not doing what is directed.
* Looking to turf, to one’s service area as one’s own kingdom.
* Resenting it when a higher-up goes direct to one’s subordinates.
* Not being a team player, not sharing resources with those outside his own area.
* Building up one’s own kingdom and personal support, even against those over him.
* Having one’s own agenda, priorities and directions, not in accordance with those of the leaders above him.
* Causing division and disunity, by not taking up differences and difficulties according to community order.
* Badmouthing other leaders, through gossip or slander.
How then should a true servant leader be?
One, and this is the obvious thing (but where the violations actually are), do not look to pride, power and position. How can this happen? It is to know that we are all servants of the one Master, Jesus. “As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.” (v.8). A servant leader does not lord it over others. We are all lowly servants. We do not profess to know more than Jesus or to teach other than what Jesus teaches.
Two, do not take in the glory that is due God. “Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Messiah.” (v.10). Do not go your own way and do your own thing. Your only role is to serve Jesus and help accomplish Jesus’ desire, that many be brought to salvation.
Three, do not think too highly of yourself. The higher your position and responsibility are, the humbler you must become. “The greatest among you must be your servant.” (v.11). You are not to climb the corporate ladder, but are to descend ever lower until you have truly denied and emptied yourself.
Four, know the example of Jesus, your Master, who humbled himself and took the lowest place (as exemplified in the washing of his disciples’ feet). Thus, even as you act in contradiction to how leaders in the world will act, know that this is what is pleasing to God, and what will result in blessings for yourself. “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (v.12). Exaltation is to come from God and not from man or those human persons we serve.
Why are Christian communities often in bad shape and unable to attain to the glory that God intends for them, as they do His work? Much of the blame rests on leaders. They know the teachings and even teach them, but they do not practice or live these out. They profess to serve our Master Jesus, but they often end up serving themselves, and in doing so, doing a great disservice to Jesus.
There could be so much that Christian communities can do. And why not? Jesus has already won the victory, and the power of the Holy Spirit is fully available. Too bad that the first enemies are not the ones out there but are the ones within, and these are the leaders themselves.
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