And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
— Mark 10:44,45
In the city of Moscow, there is a restaurant that is indisputably one of the most elegant places of fine dining in the entire world. The setting of this magnificent restaurant is a fabulous old Moscow palace that was built in the year 1889 as the personal residence for the Count Altuphev, who was a general of the Russian army during the reign of the Russian Czar, Alexander III.
As one enters the Great Hall of the palace, he is instantly overwhelmed by the great vaulted ceiling, the massive hand-carved wooden staircase, the gorgeous stain-glassed windows, and the imposing and awe-inspiring chandelier that was bequeathed to this building many years later by the dictator Joseph Stalin. All of this adds to the opulence and magnificence of this historical place — which makes an evening spent in fine dining here nearly overwhelming.
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When guests from the West come to visit, my wife and I enjoy taking them to this restaurant because it is such a unique experience to have dinner in an actual Russian palace. However, what makes the occasion even more impressive is the level of service provided to each customer. A client can hardly breathe before an attendant shows up to courteously ask how he can serve you better or provide anything that is needed.
When dinner finally arrives, it is carried to the table by servers dressed in tuxedos and white gloves. One by one, the servers set the plates on the table. Each plate is covered by a glistening, pure silver dome that conceals the entree until the appropriate moment. Once all the plates are set in place, the servers stand to the side of each person at the table. All at once, in perfect unison, they lift the pure silver domes from the plates to reveal food that has been meticulously prepared for each diner. By the time the dinner is finished, all those at the table feel like they have been treated as royalty.
Once when I was dining at this Russian palace, I carefully watched the attentiveness shown by the servers to each customer. As I watched how excellently they served, I thought of Jesus’ words, “And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all” (Mark 10:44).
The word “servant” in this verse comes from the Greek word diakonos, the Greek word for a servant whose primarily responsibility was to serve food and to wait on tables. It presents a picture of a waiter or waitress who painstakingly attends to the needs, wishes, and wants of his or her client. Professionally pleasing clients was these servants’ supreme task, so they served honorably, pleasurably, and in a fashion that made every man feel as if he were nobility.
Restaurants in the first century were very rare, so most servers worked in the very exclusive homes and palaces of the elite, rich, and famous. Hence, these were well-trained, highly refined, cultured, high-class servants who served with sophistication and finesse. Jesus used this word diakonos in a parable to describe exactly these kinds of servants assisting a wealthy king (Matthew 22:13).
This high standard and attitude of excellence is what God expects from every believer who “serves” in the Kingdom of God. Think about it — why would this level of excellence be expected in a high-class restaurant but not in God’s Kingdom?
As God’s servants, we should be well-trained, highly refined, cultured, and equipped to minister to any need with which we are confronted. Serving with an excellent standard should be our goal. There is nothing more important than what we do for the Lord, so God expects us to serve with the best attitude, the finest appearance, and the highest form of service and professionalism we can render in His name.
It must be distressing to God when He sees believers tolerate a standard in the Church that is lower than the one found in the world. Why should our standard be lower? Aren’t we serving the King of kings? Aren’t we working at His table? Therefore, shouldn’t our standard be the highest, the one by which all other standards are measured? When people come to the Kingdom of God for the first time, shouldn’t they be shocked to see a higher level of excellence than they have ever beheld before?
As God’s “servants,” we should set the example of excellence in every sphere. Here are just a few examples where the word diakonos in the New Testament lets us know that an excellent attitude and a high level of professionalism was expected by the Early Church leadership. If it was expected then, why would we settle for anything less now?
The Ministry of Tithes and Offerings:
In Acts 11:29, the word diakonos described the financial “relief” that was received and sent to believers in Judea. Because the word diakonos was used to describe the receiving and sending of this offering, it shows the professional manner in which the Early Church received and administrated these funds. They did it with excellence.
In Second Corinthians 8:4, Paul used diakonos to describe another special offering. The phrase “ministering to the saints” referred to the giving of that offering, but the word “ministering” is the word diakonos. This categorically makes us aware that these offerings were no sloppy event. It was a serious matter that was handled in the most professional and excellent manner.
The Ministry of Preaching the Gospel:
In Acts 20:24, Paul used the word diakonos to describe his “ministry.” Those who preach the Gospel literally “serve” the bread of life to hungry souls, so the word diakonos is well suited for picturing the proclamation of the truth. Paul saw the handling of God’s Word as such a high responsibility that he ministered the Word with the greatest seriousness and professionalism. When he stood to preach, it was no last-minute, thrown-together sermon. Paul prepared and served his messages with painstaking care.
The occurrences of the word diakonos depicting the ministry and the preaching of the Gospel are numerous throughout the New Testament. This suggests that our ministry should always be done with excellence.
The Ministry in General:
In Second Corinthians 6:3, Paul used the word diakonos to embrace all the wider aspects of “ministry.” Whether “ministry” is done publicly, as when preaching, or in a less visible area of the church, it should be done with excellence. This is the reason Paul said, “Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed.” Ministry demands excellence of testimony, conduct, and deed in the lives of those who are involved in it. We are never to forget that we are God’s servers!
In Colossians 4:17, Paul told Archippus to take heed to the “ministry” he had received from the Lord. This word “ministry” is the word diakonos. For Archippus, taking heed to his ministry meant being the best he could be, serving in the most professional manner possible, conscientiously fulfilling every wish God had made known to him, and doing his work with an excellence that would honor Jesus.
In Second Timothy 4:5, Paul tells Timothy to “…make full proof of thy ministry.” The word “ministry” is the word diakonos. Paul was urging Timothy to bring the level of his ministry to the highest level — to show commitment and excellence in everything he did in the name of ministry.
The Ministry of the Saints:
In First Corinthians 16:15, Paul uses the word diakonos when he refers to the household of Stephanas having “…addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.” Although the word diakonos emphatically speaks of their servant attitude, it also shows us that they were addicted to serving others with the highest possible standard of excellence.
In Revelations 2:19, the word diakonos is used when Jesus speaks to the leadership of the church of Thyatira. Although this church had many problems, one of the things for which Jesus commended them was their “service.” This is the Greek word diakonos, letting us know that serving with a high standard is commendable in God’s sight.
The Ministry of Angels:
In Matthew 4:11, the word diakonos is used when the Bible says, “Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.” These angels came to “minister” to Jesus and to meet His needs. They served Him like deacons, or like waiters whose supreme pleasure was knowing they had attended well to the needs of their Master. They “served” Jesus with the greatest attention, care, excellence, and professionalism.
In Hebrews 1:14, the word diakonos is used again to describe the ministry of angels. It says, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” When this verse says the angels are sent forth “to minister” for them who shall be heirs of salvation, the words “to minister” comes from the word diakonos. This clearly means angels have a God-given assignment to “serve” believers with meticulous, detailed attention. Angels are God’s supernatural servers who have been dispatched to attend to the needs, wants, and wishes of the saints.
The Ministry of Jesus:
In Mark 10:45, the word diakonos is used to depict Jesus and His own ministry. The verse says, “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” When this verse says Jesus came “to minister,” it is the word diakonos. Jesus was the supreme Example of serving the needs of people with excellence. He was so committed to fulfilling the assignment given to Him that He was even willing to “serve” to the point of sacrifice. His “service” would demand the highest level of commitment, dedication, attention, and excellence.
Think of it! Jesus is the Lord of all, the Creator of the universe, the only begotten Son of God. Yet when He came, His purpose was not “…to be ministered unto, but to minister….” Jesus’ entire purpose was to serve and to give His life away, not to be served or to demand the respect, approval, or adoration of men.
In all the above examples, the word diakonos describes those who are excellently serving someone and who are profoundly committed to fulfilling a specific task with the highest standard and level of professionalism. This is excellent, high-level servanthood, not sloppy service as is found in so many places today.
If you possess this right attitude about doing God’s work, it won’t be too long until Jesus promotes you to a higher position. However, don’t think that a higher position will alleviate your need to keep serving, for we’re all called to serve, regardless of our status, rank, or position.
So keep in mind that God is watching you today. Are you:
- Serving with excellence?
- Genuinely concerned about the welfare of those whom you serve?
- Sincerely wanting to serve them in the best way you can?
- Honestly thinking of how to help those who have been assigned to your care?
- Truthfully wanting to serve in a professional and timely manner?
- Faithfully doing your job from the depths of your heart?
If these are the qualities that God sees in you, it probably won’t be long until He makes sure you are rewarded with a greater level of responsibility. Why? Because He’ll know you are trustworthy and ready to handle the promotion. In fact, the word diakonos later came to represent a person found so extremely trustworthy and reliable that he was placed in charge of managing a palace!
How about you, friend? Are you faithfully “serving” at God’s table? Does your service demonstrate the excellent standard that God expects in His Kingdom? Have you been satisfied with a low level of professionalism in your life? If you want God to entrust you with greater responsibility, you must start looking at your assignment and place of service as the most important job in the whole world. Fulfill your task with a high standard of excellence — and God will see to it that you are richly rewarded!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I want to serve You with the highest level of excellence! Forgive me for times when I have tolerated a low standard in my life, my business, my ethics, my church, or my ministry. Nothing in the world is more serious than the services I render in Your name, so help me do it in a way that glorifies You.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I have a high standard of excellence in my life and that I am growing daily in my level of professionalism. As I serve God at work and at church, I demonstrate the excellence of Jesus’ name! When people see me, they see the Kingdom of God. In fact, God is happy that I am His representative because my life shows forth an excellent image of who Jesus is and what He stands for in this world. I am His representative, and therefore I do everything with the highest level of excellence!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Can you honestly say that you are serving in your business or church with a high level of excellence, or have you permitted your performance to slip to a mediocre standard that is unacceptable for a child of God?
2. Would Jesus say your work and attitude glorifies Him? Does your work and attitude make Him glad that you are known as one of His servers?
3. If you were the boss, would you be pleased with someone who works like you do at your job — or would you expect your employees to give a much better effort?