ARE YOU WILLING TO BE A SERVANT?
5 Marks of a Bondservant
from the book Calvary Road by Roy Hession
In the Old Testament two sorts of servants are mentioned. There are the hired servants, who have wages paid to them and have certain rights. Then there are the bondservants, or slaves, who have no rights, who receive no wages and who have no appeal. The Hebrews were forbidden ever to make bondservants of their own race. Only of the Gentiles were they permitted to take such slaves. When, however, we come to the New Testament, the word in the Greek for the servant of the Lord Jesus Christ is not “hired servant” but “bondservant,” by which is meant to be shown that our position is one where we have no rights and no appeal, where we are the absolute property of our Master, to be treated and disposed of just as He wishes.
I see here five marks of the bondservant. First of all, he must be willing to have one thing on top of another put upon him, without any consideration being given him. On top of a hard day in the field the servant in the parable had immediately to prepare his master’s meal, and on top of that he had to wait at table – and all that before he had had any food himself. He just went and did it, expecting nothing else. How unwilling we are for this! How quickly there are murmurings and bitterness in our hearts when that sort of thing is expected of us. But the moment we start murmuring, we are acting as if we had rights, and a bondservant hasn’t any!
Secondly, in doing this he must be willing not to be thanked for it. How often we serve others, but what self-pity we have in our hearts and how bitterly we complain that they take it as a matter of course and do not thank us for it. But a bondservant must be willing for that. Hired servants may expect something, but not bondservants.
And, thirdly, having done all this, he must not charge the other with selfishness. As I read the passage, I could not but feel that the master was rather selfish and inconsiderate. But there is no such charge from the bondservant. He exists to serve the interests of his master and the selfishness or otherwise of his master does not come into it with him. But we? We can perhaps allow ourselves to be “put upon” by others, and are willing perhaps not to be thanked for what we do, but how we charge the other in our minds with selfishness! But that is not the place of a bondservant. He is to find in the selfishness of others but a further opportunity to identify himself afresh with His Lord as the servant of all.
There is a fourth step still to which we must go. Having done all that, there is no ground for pride or self-congratulation, but we must confess that we are unprofitable servants, that is, that we are of no real use to God or man in ourselves. We must confess again and again that “in us, that is in our flesh, there dwelleth no good thing,” that, if we have acted thus, it is no thanks to us, whose hearts are naturally proud and stubborn, but only to the Lord Jesus, who dwells in us and who has made us willing.
The bottom of self is quite knocked out by the fifth and last step – the admission that doing and bearing what we have in the way of meekness and humility, we have not done one stitch more than it was our duty to do. God made man in the first place simply that he might be God’s bondservant. Man’s sin has simply consisted in his refusal to be God’s bondservant. His restoration can only be, then, a restoration to the position of a bondservant. A man, then, has not done anything specially meritorious when he has consented to take that position, for he was created and redeemed for that very thing.
This, then, is the Way of the Cross. It is the way that God’s lowly Bondservant first trod for us, and should not we, the bondservants of that Bondservant, tread it still? Does it seem hard and forbidding, this way down? Be assured, it is the only way up. It was the way by which the Lord Jesus reached the Throne, and it is the way by which we, too, reach the place of spiritual power, authority and fruitfulness. Those who tread this path are radiant, happy souls, overflowing with the life of their Lord. They have found “he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” to be true for them as for their Lord. Where before humility was an unwelcome intruder to be put up with only on occasions, she has now become the spouse of their souls, to whom they have wedded themselves for ever. If darkness and unrest enter their souls it is only because somewhere on some point they have been unwilling to walk with her in the paths of meekness and brokenness. But she is ever ready to welcome them back into her company, as they seek her face in repentance.