Leading by Serving in the Workplace
Nobody wanted to be the “best” at their job more than myself. I would drive to get and did not care what or who I had to step over to get there. People could not stand me, but I didn’t care as the job I had to do was getting done. Ultimately, not caring for my team or their well-being led to an unexpected lack of growth. My manager told me, “I cannot promote you.” This puzzled me and when I asked why, he simply said, “Because you are not a servant for your team.” A “servant” what does that mean? In my mind I didn’t work for them, they worked for me. This question plagued me for an extended time. Then, Jesus entered into my life and I saw things differently. In Matthew 20:20-28, Jesus has a direct answer to my question.
JESUS TEACHES ABOUT SERVING OTHERS
20 Then the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus with her sons. She knelt respectfully to ask a favor. 21 “What is your request?” he asked.
She replied, “In your Kingdom, please let my two sons sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.”
22 But Jesus answered by saying to them, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?”
“Oh yes,” they replied, “we are able!”
23 Jesus told them, “You will indeed drink from my bitter cup. But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. My Father has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.”
24 When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. 25 But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26 But among you, it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 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.”
Like me, the individuals walking with Jesus were missing the point. They had heard from Jesus; the first shall be last and the last shall be first. James and John’s mom asked them for the “best” spot next to him in heaven. Jesus looked at the two of them, with what I imagine as the look I get from my wife, “Really?” They respond with, “Yes.” Jesus then takes the opportunity to teach and challenge them on their notions (v25-28).
True leadership is found in the service of others. Our work should aim to serve our customers, co-workers and stakeholders. In his book Excellence Wins, Horst Schulze wrote,
“My point is, leaders are dreamers. They set their sights on worthwhile goals that will be good not only for themselves but also for their families, their colleagues, their employees, their customers, their investors, and society at large. If they aspire only to chase after personal fame or fortune, life will probably knock them down. But if they set out to make a specific contribution to the world, they can go far.”
The servant is the person who knows his or her spiritual poverty (Matt. 5:3) and exercises power under God’s control (Matt. 5:5) to maintain the right relationships. The servant-leader apologizes for mistakes (Matt. 5:4), shows mercy when others fail (Matt. 5:7), makes peace when possible (Matt. 5:9), and endures unmerited criticism when attempting to serve God (Matt. 5:10) with integrity (Matt. 5:8). Jesus set the pattern in his actions on our behalf (Matt. 20:28). We show ourselves to be Christ-followers by following his example.
The Gospel at Work
In The Gospel at Work, Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert unpack the powerful ways in which the gospel can transform how we do what we do, releasing us from the cultural pressures of both an all-consuming devotion and a punch-in, punch-out mentality—in order to find the freedom of a work ethic rooted in serving Christ.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ryan Mascio is the husband to Michelle and father to Carmine (13), Kaleena (12), Sophia (9), and Mila (3). He came to Christ in 2014 in the Church that Pastor Steve was leading in the Atlanta area. In September of 2013, while in the midst of contemplating suicide, Jesus stepped in through relationships at work and led him to a church that helped him accept Christ and this began to redeem him as a father and leader at work.