Text: Matthew 20:20-28

“And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:
(Matthew 20:27)

Since the fall of man, man became fixated on magnifying himself and
pursuing his own interests above others. The result is a, “dog eat dog
world” where men seek to dominate and destroy others that may stand in
his way. A self-entitled spirit reeks through society where greed and pride
know no bounds.

Therefore, the teaching of Jesus in verse 27 must have been a shock to
many, including the disciples. Many in this world seek to be “chief” over
others. Yet now, Christ was telling them to have the spirit of a servant,
seeking to serve others. In fact, the word for “servant” here is doulos,
referring to a bond slave who had no rights of his own, and did the
bidding of the master. Christ was thus saying that he who seek to be
“chief” owe it to others to serve them (c.f. verse 27 diakonos). This
self-debasing spirit was the total opposite from the self-exalting
philosophy of the world.

The trigger for Jesus’ words started with James and John together with
their mother (comparing Mark 10:35-37 and Matthew 20:20-21) coming
to Jesus and requesting that they be set at the right and left hand of Jesus
in Christ’s kingdom. This was tantamount to asking for the top two
offices and hence the highest honour in the Messianic kingdom. Perhaps
their petition was sparked by Jesus’ proclamation in Matthew 19:28
where Jesus declared that, “in the regeneration when the Son of man
shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones,
judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Putting on their worldly glasses, they
viewed these thrones as political posts, and thus they were moved to put
in their request.

The request of the two brothers were not taken kindly by the rest of the
Apostles. They were extremely angry that they had put in this request.
This angry response born out of sinful jealousy was a natural response of
men who placed self over others. Why must they get the position but not
me? They had lost focus on what it means to be a disciple of the Lord
Jesus Christ.

This same position-jaunting spirit was seen in the Corinthian church who
exalted the cult of man. They were split into parties and did all they could
to outdo each other. Humble service was replaced by jealous competition.
Some abused the gift of tongues (i.e. the speaking of diverse languages) in
the worship service so that they could outshine others. 1 Corinthians 14
even hinted that there were those who may have even faked the gift of
speaking in tongues so that they could demand attention. What a sad state
of affairs for the church!

Nevertheless, this desire to be “chief” can still be seen in churches today.
We also do little to stamp out this spirit when we adore those who are
chief in their “positions”, viewing them like offices of the world. What we
fail to see is that these offices require a greater demand for the spirit of a
servant, where one must place others above self. Every Christian is
indebted in the Lord Jesus Christ to others in ministering to the good of
their spiritual welfare. All the more, those who are in chief positions must
remember that they are no more but mere men, and more is required of
them in humble service. Who is the chief preacher, the chief leader, the
chief administrator, the chief teacher, the chief pianist but servants of the
Lord? It is when we forget these things, and promote the cult of man that
we begin tearing at each other to the detriment of the Lord’s glory.

Our chief example has to be Christ himself. Though He be the only
begotten Son of God, He willingly gave up His outward glory to become
man, so that He may “give his life as a ransom for many” (v.28). Christ
demonstrated and illustrated this spirit of humble service by washing His
disciples’ feet in John 13. He who is chief set the example that the rest of
us may follow.

The comments on John D. Street in a journal article deserves
consideration. Though advocating on a corporate understanding of
Romans 12:1, his comments strike home on the subject we are
considering today. “What this verse says is a radical departure from the
individualistic mindset of contemporary Christians… Proper sacrificial
worship of the individual Christian is inescapably bound to the body of
Christ as a whole and what benefits His church… Rather, sacrificial
worship is a corporate calling to oneness. Having the same mind is what
is pleasing to God…The church that is splintered into multiple factions
and ministries by solitary persons stands in opposition to the body of
Christ and its intended unity in Him.”

Service is not a competition. Neither are we called to an individualistic esoteric
ministry that seeks to magnify oneself in the sight of man. Let no man seek to
be chief, but rather exalt Christ who is the King of Kings. He is the true chief
of our lives.

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew


“In Singapore, Even Orangutans Have to Work for a Living!”
By Rev Timothy Tow
13 July 1986

Mrs O’brien who worshipped with us at Prinsep St. 24 years ago paid us a visit
from Adelaide, bringing us greetings from the Paauwes. We took her to the
zoo. To our delight of delights, the zoo people now put the animals up for
show. Elephants, sea-lions, snakes, penguins, orangutans outshining even with
“magic” tricks. Every time an act is perform, the orangutan gets a peanut.
Comes the thought, “Here in Singapore even orangutans have to work for a
living. That is what makes Singapore tick.” I’m proud to be a Singaporean. We
believe in our PM who says all must work or starve. Nobody owes us a living.
The Bible says “if any would not work, neither should he eat.” (2 Thess. 3:10)