I can relate to the mother of James and John when she whispered in the ear of Jesus,
“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.” (Matt 20:20-21)
Can you imagine such boldness? Yes, we can. We mean well; we really do. Mom or Dad do a little sales pitch to Jesus in our prayers about how we want our babies to be favored. I think He probably smiles a little and says, “Don’t worry. I love them even more than you do.” Jesus answered the mom with these words,
“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.”
The late Martin Luther King, one of the greatest servant leaders of all time, preached an inspiring sermon titled “Drum Major Instinct.” In it, he spoke of the bid for attention that begins with a baby’s cry and continues into the need to be recognized throughout life. If you will allow me, I would like to borrow an excerpt from that sermon.
“And so Jesus gave us a new norm of greatness. If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s a new definition of greatness. And this morning, the thing that I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant. …He (Jesus) stands as the most influential figure that ever entered human history. All of the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned put together have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that one solitary life. He didn’t have anything. He just went around serving and doing good. This morning, you can be on his right hand and his left hand if you serve…”
One of the best ways to make serving a “declarative action” is to teach your children the concept of “time tithing.” In this activity, children “tithe” by giving away 10 percent of their time to a charitable act of their choice. Invite the children to be creative in their choices, but be sure that they understand the key truth of the activity: that the only true joy in life is found in that which we give away. The Apostle Paul wrote about fully pleasing Him (Col. 1:10), and in the Gospels we see that Jesus taught servant leadership by both example and speech as pleasing to the Father.
- Pray for the spirit of serving to develop in your children, and pray that you will model this spirit to them.
- Pray for your child to find meaningful ways to serve at a nearby ministry or your local church. My daughter started working at the Pregnancy Center folding baby clothes at the age of 12 and was hosting women by 15. She went on to become a women’s counselor.
- Pray for opportunities for your family to bless others by donating time, cooking a meal, cleaning a yard, etc., and give your children the chance to experience the joy of gratitude and sharing. Make choosing the project a weekly family activity that you can plan together or give kids a “menu” of ideas to choose from. Let them “own” the serving activity.
LASTLY: I am giving you the link here to the “Drum Major Instinct” text, but I encourage you to listen to Dr. King’s beautiful Southern drawl and the fabulous emotion in his voice on the mp3 audio here. He will charm and inspire you for sure. For the purposes of this devotional, I used the portion of the mp3 starting at 18:00 and finished at 21:20, but there are nuggets of wisdom and inspiration throughout. Use it as a springboard for discussion at your B&B (Breakfast and Bible) or the family dinner.