FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
ON SERVANT LEADERSHIP
TAKING THE LOWEST PLACE
August 28, 2016
Today’s gospel: Luke 14:1-14
All who serve in the Church are servants of Christ. Some of them will be called to be leaders. But the leader is the servant. Thus we speak about being a “servant leader.” This is not an easy role to live out.
People, with their fallen human nature, even as they are serving Christ, can tend to be secular in their thinking. Thus they still think about position and power as leaders. It is like the invited guests who “were choosing the places of honor at the table.” (v.7). The closer to the host, the more prominent and so the better.
Jesus told them to resist such posturing. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor.” (v.8a). Jesus said that a more distinguished guest might arrive and the host will ask you to vacate your place to make room for him, thus really embarrassing you (v.8b-9). And since other places would already be occupied, you would then proceed “to take the lowest place.” (v.9b). The lesson for us: Do not think too highly of yourself. And even if you were actually the most important person around, still, do not decide your place of prominence for yourself.
“Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’” (v.10a). The lesson for us: As Jesus has already invited us to be with him and to serve him as a leader, we take the posture of a true servant leader, recognizing our nothingness apart from his grace, and so the position we accept is as a servant or slave, the lowest place. We leave it up to Jesus to honor us as we do well in his service. “Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.” (v.10b).
Our final lesson: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (v.11). The one who takes the lowest place as a servant is the one who is raised to a position of prominence as a leader. The former act is ours, the latter act is the Lord’s. We must never exalt ourselves, as that is pride and folly. We leave it to our Master to do that, if that is what he desires to do.
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