Servant leadership according to Jesus : Luke 22:21-27


Luk 22:21  "But look, the hand of the one who betrays me is with me on the table.
Luk 22:22  For the Son of Man is to go just as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!"
Luk 22:23  So they began to question one another as to which of them it could possibly be who would do this.
Luk 22:24  A dispute also started among them over which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.
Luk 22:25  So Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’
Luk 22:26  Not so with you; instead the one who is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the one who serves.
Luk 22:27  For who is greater, the one who is seated at the table, or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is seated at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

A friend highlighted this passage for me recently.  At first glance it seems to parallel Mat 20:23-27 and Mark 10:41-45 but the chronology is off, as is some aspects of the story.  This snippet from Luke happens right after the last supper whereas Mark and Matthew’s account is much sooner.  It looks like Jesus made this point about leadership twice.

One unique aspect of this encounter is that Jesus talks about those in authority being regarded as benefactors, they are those that do good work and benefit society.  Have we fallen in to the same fault by redefining authoritarian leadership as servant leadership?

Jesus describes servant leadership as becoming like the youngest, like one who serves at a table.

I don’t think we get Jesus.  His idea of leadership, taken at face value,  runs counter to what I observe and have been taught.

  1. #1 by Sheila Holmes on January 21, 2009 - 11:09 am

    Leighton I completely agree. I don’t really understand Jesus either. It’s kind of like hearing a joke that other people understand, or laugh along with to show that they’re not “out of the loop” but when I really look at scripture I find that I’m one of those who has eyes but doesn’t really see, and has ears but doesn’t really hear. And the disturbingly ironic truth, is that this is a good thing?
    Thanks for the insight.

  2. #2 by Prairie Fire on January 23, 2009 - 8:37 pm

    Leighton – it has been too long; hope you are well!

    Just finished a leadership course here which focuses on the difference between the leadership required to tackle technical challenges (problems for which we have known solutions), and adaptive challenges (problems for which we have no known solutions). There are a lot of linkages between those concepts and the dichotomy of leadership that seems to be apparent in this passage of scripture – some great food for thought!

    On an unrelated note, a friend of mine here in Boston recently wrote a book which I think may be of interest to you and some of your readers: http://arguelikejesus.com/

    All the best!

  3. #3 by Toni on February 4, 2009 - 8:39 am

    Curious. You are a leader and theologian in the church and you don’t get Jesus on this (or maybe you do, and this is for creation of discussion).

    Look, we’ve just become part of a new church. We are in leadership in the old one, but there is no ‘right of leadership’ so we go in as servants. We put out chairs, wash up cups, run PA, do Sunday School, spend time with people with issues. All the things we did as leaders in the last church: servanthood is a way of life if you’re in leadership. Being a leader doesn’t somehow move you up the pole, so that ‘ordinary people’ do all the service.

    But the point is, we aren’t serving because it’s a way of moving up the pole: we’re serving because that’s our calling. If I am going to be God’s man in this generation I won’t win people by eloquent sermons or clever blogging. So what’s my calling? What’s yours?

    What’s hard to understand?

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