Day 27 - Serve Like Jesus

Day 27 - Serve Like Jesus

Written by: Katelyn Boyd

Matthew 23:1-6, 11-12
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.
“Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues…
The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. 

What are some of the mantras that are well-known in your home? What are the things you find yourself saying to your spouse or your children over and over again that have become core values or words to live by in your family? We have three little ones, ranging in age from 9 months to almost 7 years, and one mantra that has become regularly quoted in our home is that “People are more important than things.” This originally came about because of our boys’ tendency to lash out at one another over a toy that wasn’t being shared, and we would remind our boys that they should value one another and their relationship with each other over something that is temporary and of little importance in the grand scheme of things. In Matthew 23, Jesus is sharing a similar lesson with his disciples and followers; he is letting them know that in His Kingdom, people are more important than rules and that actually loving and serving God with humility is more important than the mere appearance of doing so.

Jesus begins in verses 1-3 by telling his followers to respect the religious leaders because of their position of authority not because of their example; he says they should” practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example…everything they do is for show.” The Pharisees cared more about the appearance of loving God rather than practically and actively loving Him and others. They would wear elaborate prayer shawls and phylacteries, or boxes with Scripture in them on their heads and arms to signify that they were righteous and following God, but in reality, they were bad examples  of what it looked like to follow Him, because they expected more from others than they did from themselves. They added a burdensome oral tradition of additional laws to the biblical law from God, and in so doing, they “crushed people with unbearable religious demands,” making it difficult for them to have a relationship with God.

The heavy burdens put on people by the Pharisees stand in direct contrast to what Jesus teaches about following him in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” The way of Jesus isn’t about the things you can do to adhere to impossible standards and rules; it’s about placing your faith and hope in the One who met the standard of holiness in His life and transferred His righteousness through His death and resurrection! And, sharing the way of Jesus with others is not about piling up heavy burdens of rules and regulations to strap to the back of those who need salvation, but it is about becoming like Jesus in love and service to the lost in order to introduce them to the One who will save them!

Jesus goes on to warn against chasing after places of honor or the respect of men (in verses 6-10), which was also much different than the example of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The religious leaders valued the things they did to appear righteous more than the One who could make them righteous and more than the people they had been called to serve and lead. They were not merely content to outwardly display their supposed spirituality, but they loved it when people admired their status and supposed spirituality. However, greatness in God’s kingdom is not found in these things, but is only found in singular focus on the person of Jesus and in service to others.

A few chapters before this exchange, in response to James and John seeking a place of honor in His Kingdom in Matthew 20, Jesus similarly teaches about servant leadership, foreshadowing his own example of service in His death: “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” If we are followers of Jesus, then we must be truly following the way of His example, which is one of loving, sacrificial service, in stark contrast to the prideful and self-seeking example of the Pharisees. Jesus’ service to others, from the miracles he performed to the washing of His disciples feet and the death he freely subjected himself to, was motivated entirely by love; He served because he loved, and He calls us to do the same. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, in The Message says“Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.”

People are more important than things. The Christian life is not all about the things we must do to be “good,” it is about surrendering to the person of Jesus and following His way. His way is easy, and His burden is light. His way is one of humble service for His name and glory, rather than one of seeking our own status and name.

I love Matthew 23, verses 11 and 12 in The Message: “Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.”

Are you following the Pharisee’s example to the places of high honor for yourself, or are you following the example of Jesus to the cross, sacrificing your pride and your preferences to serve Him and to serve others out of love? Take some time to allow the Lord to reveal any areas of pride in your heart that you need to surrender to him; humble yourself before the Lord and ask Him to help you walk in humility. Ask the Lord to put you in specific situations today where you can be intentional to “step down” in order to serve to convey the love and example of Jesus to those around you, whether that is voluntarily doing an undesirable job that no one else wants to do at home or work (Jesus washed feet!), taking dinner to someone in your neighborhood who is struggling, paying for someone else’s food at lunch, or just going last so that someone else can go first.

Father, we thank you for the example of Jesus, who put people before traditions, and who loved and serve others, instead of waiting to be served. Would you help us to walk in His way today? Open our eyes to opportunities to love and serve those you put into our paths today, and open our hearts to being willing to “step down” in order serve like Jesus did. Help us not to seek our own honor or glory for our own names, but help us to seek yours, because you are worthy of all honor and glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.