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Bible verses about Servant Attitude
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Numbers 27:1-11

Numbers 27 is the appeal of Zelophehad's five daughters to Moses in regard to their inheritance. Their father had died without any sons, and under the law of the time, his daughters were left without an inheritance. The commentators who go into this say that such an appeal was virtually unheard of because at that time a woman's station in society was only slightly higher than a child's. The child was always on the lowest social level, which is one reason why Jesus said we have to become as a child. All of society revolved around men.

Moses does three remarkable things. He not only hears the appeal of these ladies, he humbly admits that he did not know the answer. He takes it to God, and God not only hears it, He gives the ladies more than what they asked for, as all they had asked for was the land. God says, in effect, "Not only can you have the land, but you have the right to pass it on just as if you were Zelophehad's sons." It came under their power completely.

The point is that no leader under God can afford not to listen with fullest attention to the appeals of the lowly or to their counsel. He cannot afford to be in an attitude in which he will not listen to the people that he is supposed to be leading. It is a very important lesson and principle of law that comes out of Moses' humility, meekness, and willingness to hear, whereas other leaders of his day would likely have not even allowed those women to come into their presence.

There are only two cases in the life of Moses in which a woman came before him for either a judgment or in accusation. This was one of them, and the other one was his sister, Miriam. We know what happened to Miriam. It makes for an interesting contrast.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 6)


 

Deuteronomy 17:14-20

God was planning that Israel would have a king, so He laid down these regulations to show how He expected the king to conduct himself within the office. These regulations are designed to ensure that the king does not overly elevate himself above the people and rule as an autocratic despot. Instead, he is to be thoroughly familiar with and guided by the attitudes and laws of God. He must comprehensively know that his own nature is just like those he serves and be humbled.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 7)


 

2 Kings 4:27-31

As the Shunammite woman clutches Elisha's feet, a posture of abject humility, grief, and supplication, Gehazi attempts to push her away from the prophet. Elisha sternly rebukes him for not noticing her distress and accommodating her in her sorrow (verse 27). The servant is not perceptive enough to see her heartfelt anguish—all he sees is another demanding supplicant to be dealt with, to be put in her rightful place before the great prophet.

Who is this Gehazi? The Bible describes him consistently and solely as Elisha's servant, shedding very little light on his background or position. In his All the Men of the Bible, Herbert Lockyer speculates that he "likely stood in the same relationship to Elisha as Elisha had done to Elijah" (p. 124). This would make him the prophet's probable successor as well as his assistant. If this is so, it makes him, as the type of a false minister, that much more significant and sinister.

Scripture records very little that is good about Gehazi. He heeds Elisha's commands well enough, but the sense of his basic unbelief and impure motives that hovers between the lines is real. He appears in three scenes, and only in one of them does he do anything of even moderate merit (II Kings 8:1-6). The second scene in II Kings 5:20-27 exposes his greed for money and the power it brings, and God through Elisha curses him and his descendants with leprosy, a hideous form of excommunication.

The third scene appears here in II Kings 4, bringing out his inconsiderate attitude and spiritual impotence. It shows him living intimately with the righteous example of Elisha but never instilling it into his own character. He is a servant who never learns how to care for those he serves. He is a man with great potential for growth in God's way and service who instead seeks material wealth and position in society. In the end he receives the "reward" of a false minister.

Gehazi's spiritual inadequacy comes out when Elisha sends him ahead to try to heal the dead child (verses 29-31). The text does not mention him praying for the child's healing, and even using the prophet's staff does him no good. The terse narrative suggests that, once Gehazi sees no change in the boy's condition, he says, "Oh, well!" and reports his unsuccessful attempt to Elisha and the grieving mother. "Try, try again" is not in his spiritual vocabulary (see Luke 18:1-8)!

This should give us some general clues about false ministers, tares among the wheat in God's service. Many are avaricious; they see "serving" God's people as a means to a profitable end. Many are inconsiderate; their "ministry" is more about them and their desires than the true needs of the flock. Many are spiritually weak, "having a form of godliness but denying its power" (II Timothy 3:5); they merely go through the motions of godly works. The apostles Peter and Jude expound on other elements of false ministers in their books (II Peter 2; Jude 5-19).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Elisha and the Shunammite Woman, Part II: Serving God's Children


 

Haggai 2:11-14

Haggai 2:11-14 illustrates the impossibility of holiness being transferred from one to another, and by contrast, how easily defilement is transmitted. The sanctity of something or someone dedicated to God cannot be transferred merely by contact with another. However, the defilement of an unclean thing transfers easily to the clean, defiling it!

Washing is the primary means of ceremonial purity. From these biblical examples, John Wesley's well-known comment, "Cleanliness is next to godliness," arose. He realized that cleanliness is somehow related to what God is like and that personal hygiene has a spiritual dimension. Indeed, the very first mention of washing in Scripture is when Abraham's hospitality to his three visitors includes providing water to wash their feet (Genesis 18:4). This symbol of hospitality and servanthood reaches its zenith when Jesus includes it as part of the New Covenant Passover ritual.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 6: The Pure in Heart


 

Matthew 18:1

The disciples ask Jesus, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" Thinking that He was about to set up a great temporal kingdom, they want to know who would hold the primary offices and posts of honor and profit. Mark informs us that they had disputed this subject while traveling (Mark 9:34). Jesus asks them what they had been arguing about. Luke adds that Jesus perceives their thoughts (Luke 9:47). The disciples, conscious that Jesus is aware of their dispute, are at first embarrassed into silence, but they eventually ask Him to decide it for them. Jesus' reply are the parables found in Matthew 18:2-14.

Martin G. Collins
Parables of the Millstone and the Lost Sheep


 

Matthew 18:2-5

The word "converted" means to change or turn. Specifically, it means to change from one way of life or set of beliefs to another. Sometimes it means "regeneration"—beginning to live a new spiritual life (Psalm 51:10-13, 17). Jesus tells the disciples that their attitudes of ambition are wrong, and they must change or have no part in His Kingdom. To do this, they must be like small children, who, for the most part, lack arrogance and pride. Children are characteristically humble and teachable (I Corinthians 14:20).

According to Mark, Jesus teaches them that, "if anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all" (Mark 9:35). The most humble Christian will be the most distinguished, and he who is willing to be esteemed last and least will be esteemed first. To regard oneself as God regards us is humility. One who receives and loves someone with an innocent child's humble attitude, who may be weak in the faith, displays true Christian character and loves Jesus Christ (Matthew 25:35-40). "Receive" in verse 5 means to approve, love, or treat with kindness; to aid in time of need.

Martin G. Collins
Parables of the Millstone and the Lost Sheep


 

Matthew 20:20-28

Here, the disciples show they understood what Christ was doing, but they immediately let the idea of such awesome power go to their heads by vying for the very top positions. Christ explains that His disciples must use authority in a godly fashion, not for self-aggrandizement as the Gentiles had used it.

Staff
Who Are the 'Guests at the Wedding'?


 

Matthew 20:24

Matthew 20:20-26 records the occasion when the mother of James and John asked Jesus for special consideration for her sons. When the other disciples heard of the mother of James and John asking Jesus for special consideration for her sons, they were indignant, angry. Why? From Jesus' reply we can infer that their vanity was pricked—they had been "beaten to the punch"! They had been thinking of the same request because in their vanity they thought they deserved special consideration too.

Their proud minds had pictured themselves as worthy of being served, and they were offended because they thought that chance might be slipping away. Jesus reminded them that, even to be in the Kingdom, one has to have a humble attitude of a servant.

Unlike love, pride is "touchy and fretful." When pride feels threatened, it broods against what it perceives to be hurting it or lessening its chances of "being on top," "coming out ahead" of another, "looking good," or "getting even." And so it competes against others. It looks for ways to elevate itself or put another down. It counts all the offenses, real or imagined, and puts them into a mental account book to justify its position until it finds an opportune moment to break out in "vindication" of itself.

Love does not do any of those things. I Corinthians 13:5 says it as simply as it can possibly be put. Love does not insist on its own way—it will not even become provoked in the first place. And it makes no accounting of the evil done against it! We all have a long way to go in this regard!

When love dominates a person's life, becoming offended either through hurt feelings or a strong temptation to sin is remote. When pride dominates, hurt feelings or strong temptations to sin seem to lie behind every bush.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Defense Against Offense


 

Luke 17:10

The lowly attitude of the servant is seen clearly in the word translated "servant" in verse 7. It is the Greek word doulos meaning "bondservant." During Christ's time, such a servant-slave was under the complete authority of his master. We must take this lowly position if we are going to serve our Master well. Our service will always fall short of the suffering and sacrifice Jesus received while in the flesh on earth. Therefore, there is no such thing as an excess of earned credit in us; even after serving our best at what the Master requires, we are still unprofitable servants in comparison to Christ. After performing our duty perfectly, we are still short of earned credit before God. We cannot build anything on our own effort. If we expect thanks and reward for fulfilling the minimum requirement of work, our thoughts are not on the duty but on what we may gain.

Christ expects every church member to do his duty in a mind and will unified with His. His emphasis on humility is a hard lesson for those who will not serve unless given recognition, honor, and position. In reality, much of the service we perform for Him is humbling and obscure by the world's standard. Christian works must be done in faith (James 2:20). The only way to obtain increased faith is for the working servant to manifest steadfast, persevering obedience, grounded in humility with the help of the Holy Spirit. Faith is produced as a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). A humble, obedient, serving attitude goes a long way to increasing faith and practicing true forgiveness.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Unprofitable Servants


 

John 13:1-5

While His disciples ate the Passover meal, Jesus arose and washed the disciples' feet. Considered a very lowly responsibility in that culture, footwashing was performed by servants when visitors entered a house. By performing this act of humility, Jesus shows us how we should serve each other. He commands Christians everywhere and throughout all ages to follow His example.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Holy Days: Passover


 

John 13:12-16

Because of their incessant bickering about who would be the greatest in the Kingdom (Luke 22:24-27), Jesus gave the disciples an object lesson designed to show them what their real position was under Him. He tells them, "He who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves" (verse 26). He shows them that they must be willing to do whatever task—even the most menial—that is necessary for the good of their brothers. This should have put them in the proper attitude for the Passover's greater purpose, Christ's sacrifice for our forgiveness and redemption.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Footwashing


 

John 13:12-15

The footwashing a commanded ceremony for Christians. It is an object lesson whose meaning we are to inculcate into our lives and practice at every opportunity! As Christ served us, so should we serve others. The apostle John writes in I John 2:6, "He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Footwashing


 

John 13:15

This last statement by Jesus gives us a little insight into His mind. What He says can apply both to earthly relationships of masters and servants as well as to a human's relationship to Christ. We can see in the pages of the gospels that it also describes how Jesus approached His relationship with God the Father. He was always submissive to the Father in everything. Beyond this, God the Father is the greatest servant in the universe. In our behalf, He sustains everything we depend on for our very lives.

Luke probably alludes to the same statement in his account of that Passover evening:

But there was also rivalry among [the disciples], as to which of them should be considered the greatest. And He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called 'benefactors.' But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves." (Luke 22:24-27)

Christ, by His actions, made it very clear that He would not expect anything from us that He was not willing to do Himself. He, as our Governor and Elder Brother, though He should have been served by others, served them. Undoubtedly, service is the essence of godly leadership.

Bill Keesee (1935-2010)
Another Look at Footwashing


 

1 Corinthians 3:9-10

If God places us within an office in the church—as an elder or a deacon—it must be looked upon as a blessing that is a responsibility, not a reward! It is given for God's purposes. Paul even had his office as apostle because it was given to him. It is implied that all the powers to perform it were also given. He used them to lay the foundation.

Everybody else is the same way. The important thing is that each one of us must use our gifts to build. Paul says, "Be careful how you build." The foundation that was laid is Jesus Christ. When we begin to expand on it, it consists of the apostles and the prophets as well—the things that they wrote and the examples that they set. Everybody is to build on the same foundation! God gives everybody the gifts to enable them to do so.

To some, God gives gifts to be apostles; to others, He gives gifts to be an evangelist, pastor, teacher, or whatever. They are given, though, and every time God gives an office, He gives all that is needed for the person to fulfill that office—including overcoming sin.

The Bible consistently teaches that an office is not a place from which to exercise power, but a position from which to exercise service. The authority is certainly there, since God gives it. He always gives the authority to go with the office, but having it means that the elder or deacon must also have the right perspective on how to use the office God has given him. The office is given, not earned.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Grace Upon Grace


 

1 Corinthians 8:1

It is almost axiomatic that the one with the least reservoir of experience will appear as the most cocky and unyielding, while the one with a vast reservoir of experience - who has concluded that there are even vaster funds of knowledge yet to be learned - will appear as the more provisional and tolerant. In Speech 101, my professor referred to this process as "small pot soon hot." A reason why peer-group instruction sometimes fizzles is the cocky attitude displayed by the person who first "catches on" to some elementary step, lording it over the later bloomers. In the beginning stages of learning, knowledge has the tendency to "puff up", but as one continues to grow in it, a quality of meekness replaces intolerant rigidity.

David F. Maas
Servant Leadership: Practical Meekness


 

Ephesians 5:21

Submitting is an act of following. Any leader who does not submit to the wise counsel of those he leads is plunging the whole organization into disaster.

John W. Ritenbaugh
'I'll Never Follow Another Man!'


 

Philippians 2:3-7

The attitude Jesus showed in washing His disciples' feet is the same attitude that enabled Him to give up the power and glory of being like God and become a man. Here we see that our Creator, the Almighty God, is first and foremost a servant. He is willing to serve His own servants! When we come to the point that we are able to do everything in an attitude of service and humility, we are truly following Jesus Christ.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Footwashing


 

Philippians 2:7

The clause, "He made Himself of no reputation," more literally reads, "He emptied Himself." Instead of asserting His rights to the expression of the essence of Deity, He waived His rights and relinquished them. Compared to the fullness of God, He must indeed have felt empty once He gave up "the form of God"!

The word form in verse 7 is the same Greek word as in verse 6. The grammatical structure of the sentence demands that the "taking the form of a servant" preceded and caused His "making Himself of no reputation." Remember, form is the outward expression of inner nature. The sentence, though, indicates an exchange of such expression. Therefore, being a servant was not something of His inner nature that had been previously expressed. It was not His usual mode of outward expression. Before, He conveyed glory and sovereignty over all things, but afterward, He manifested servanthood.

An event in the life of Jesus may help explain this exchange of expressions. What happened in His incarnation was the exact opposite of what occurred at the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-5; Mark 9:2-7). Luke writes that His "appearance . . . was altered" (Luke 9:29), and Peter, James, and John "saw His glory" (verse 32). On the Mount of Transfiguration, He was changed from His normal, human outward expression as a servant to the outward expression of Deity.

Of what did He empty Himself? He did not empty Himself of His Deity, but rather the outward expression of His Deity and all it implies. As one author puts it, "He emptied Himself of His existence-in-a-manner-equal-to-God." He set aside His legitimate and natural desires and prerogatives as Deity so that He might express Himself as a servant.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Fully Man and Fully God?


 

1 Peter 2:18

We may feel our boss takes advantage of us. He may not pay us what we are worth. He may make us work longer hours than we feel that we should. He may put the pressure on regarding the Sabbath, the holy days, or the Feast of Tabernacles. He may give us work that is beneath our dignity or for which we are overqualified, and we may not feel challenged. There all kinds of ways we can feel pressure from employers.

In these kinds of situations, Peter is not saying we should not compromise at all. He is saying for the Lord's sake, that is, out of regard for Him, we are to control ourselves so we do not rebel. To allow our emotions to have free reign to the point of rebellion is the same as calling God into account—that is, we are (at least indirectly) telling Him that He does not know how to run His creation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 4)


 

 




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