Servant leadership-Leadership model in the Bible
Servant leadership is a leadership philosophy in which the main goal of the leader is to serve. This is different from traditional leadership where the leader’s main focus is the thriving of their company or organizations. A Servant Leader shares power, puts the needs of the employees first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible. Servant leadership inverts the norm, which puts the customer service associates as a main priority. Instead of the people working to serve the leader, the leader exists to serve the people. (Wikipedia)
1Ki 12:1-16 KJV 1 And Rehoboam went to Shechem: for all Israel were come to Shechem to make him king. 2 And it came to pass, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who was yet in Egypt, heard of it, (for he was fled from the presence of king Solomon, and Jeroboam dwelt in Egypt;) 3 That they sent and called him. And Jeroboam and all the congregation of Israel came, and spake unto Rehoboam, saying, 4 Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee. 5 And he said unto them, Depart yet for three days, then come again to me. And the people departed. 6 And king Rehoboam consulted with the old men, that stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, and said, How do ye advise that I may answer this people? 7 And they spake unto him, saying, If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever. 8 But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him: 9 And he said unto them, What counsel give ye that we may answer this people, who have spoken to me, saying, Make the yoke which thy father did put upon us lighter? 10 And the young men that were grown up with him spake unto him, saying, Thus shalt thou speak unto this people that spake unto thee, saying, Thy father made our yoke heavy, but make thou it lighter unto us; thus shalt thou say unto them, My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s loins. 11 And now whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions. 12 So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king had appointed, saying, Come to me again the third day. 13 And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men’s counsel that they gave him; 14 And spake to them after the counsel of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke: my father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions. 15 Wherefore the king hearkened not unto the people; for the cause was from the LORD, that he might perform his saying, which the LORD spake by Ahijah the Shilonite unto Jeroboam the son of Nebat. 16 So when all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David. So Israel departed unto their tents.
Solomon the king was established on the throne and he built many outstanding structures for the himself and the nations. He built the most magnificent temple for seven years and built his own house for thirteen years. He later built store houses, war houses and houses for all his wives and concubines. Where did he get the resources and manpower to do all these laborious work from? Of course from the people he rules. High tax and revenues were imposed on the people and they were also conscripted into the building work. His years of ruling was terrible for the people who served out of loyalty and honour to the king and the kingdom but like slaves in their own land.
When Solomon died, it was a big relief to many with the hope that they will be free from so much taxes, revenues and tributes imposed on them. So when his son Rehoboam was installed as the king, the people sent a delegate to him to ask for relief, at lease some relaxation from tax and slavery which they were subjected to under his father.
Rehoboam listened to them and asked them to come back in few days time. In the meanwhile he approached the elders who were his father’s counsellors on what to do about the matter on the ground. They advised him based on their age and experience with Solomon.
1Ki 12:7 KJV And they spake unto him, saying, If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever.
The Hebrew word used for “servant” in the text is “ebed” and it means: slave, servant, slave, servant, man-servant, subjects. While the Hebrew word used for “serve” is “abad” and it means: to work, serve, to labour, work, do work, to work for another, serve another by labour, to serve as subjects, to serve.
Strong’s Definition: A primitive root; to work (in any sense); by implication to serve, till, (causatively) enslave, etc.: – X be, keep in bondage, be bondmen, bond-service, compel, do, dress, ear, execute, + husbandman, keep, labour (-ing man), bring to pass, (cause to, make to) serve (-ing, self), (be, become) servant (-s), do (use) service, till (-er), transgress [from margin], (set a) work, be wrought, worshipper.
The elders advised Rehoboam to be a servant unto the people he was asked to rule. Rehoboam was the king, he was trained to rule, be in dominion and reign. He saw how his father was ruling the people but now the elders said he should rather be servant. This sound absurd. Not only that, they asked him to serve the people. In order words to be the one serving them rather than they serving the king.
They also asked him to answer them, the word “answer them” here actually means to listen to them; pay attention; regard them; and respond to them, They also asked him to speak to the people good words. Solomon himself has said in the book of Proverb that good words turns away wrath. The elders said ‘speak nice words them, tell them that you are on the throne to serve them, promise to make them happy and talk about their welfare’. What will be the consequence of this? The elders says they will in turn serve you for ever, that is all his days. A very wise counsel. The people will be the servant for ever.
Rehoboam thanked them but the Bible says he went ahead to consult his peers, colleagues and mates that were brought up with him. He threw the questions of the people at them. They had a different opinion from that of elders, they told him to be arrogant, not to take it easy with the people, he was to promised them hard time. He listen to the youths and forsook the advice of the elders. They told his what he wanted to hear been an arrogant person himself.
On the day agreed for the people to come, he answered them roughly, told them that if they ever suffered under his father, they were in for a big hard time. He will show them pepper. Rehoboam missed it. He missed an opportunity to secure the kingdom, he missed the opportunity to be a leader who will serve his people and they will reciprocate and serve him for ever. He lost the kingdom. It was divided, there was civil war and things were not the same again.
The lessons are many here, we are called to be servant leader, to lead by providing service unto the people, putting their interest at heart and making sure that they occupy the uppermost part in affairs of the nation. Government is about people and not satisfy ourselves.
Under the New Testament, our Lord Jesus provided the model of leadership similar to what we have read here. There was a time when the disciples were arguing among themselves who will be the greatest. James and John had come to seek for different position in the kingdom. According to the other Gospel writer their mother actually followed them to meet Jesus for the juicy positions. When the other disciples heard it they were displeased and the Lord had a good answer for them:
Mar 10:42-45 KJV 42 But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. 43 But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: 44 And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. 45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
In order words, Jesus said the way to leadership is by service. In order to be great in the kingdom and in the society, Jesus said the person should learn to serve. The word “minister” in that text is “diakonos” and it means one who executes the commands of another, especially of a master, a servant, attendant, minister, the servant of a king. The person aspiring to be the leader will start as a servant. He gave example of Himself that He came not to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many.
The Gospel according to the book of Mark gave additional instructions on what the Lord says:
Mar 10:42-43 KJV 42 But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. 43 But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
The people in the world becomes leaders by dominating their subjects and exercising lordship over them but Jesus said it should not be like that in the kingdom.
Another time the disciples were disputing about who will be the master among them.
Mar 9:33-37 KJV 33 And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? 34 But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. 35 And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. 36 And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, 37 Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.
During the last supper, He demonstrated this by washing the feet of the disciples Washing the feet is the job given to the lowest slave in the house to be performed on the feet of visitors as an act of hospitality.
He demonstrated it
Joh 13:4-5 KJV 4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. 5 After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
After He had finished he gave the instructions to follow that this is the way things ought to be.
Joh 13:12-15 KJV 12 So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? 13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
It takes humility to serve and this is a great lesson on humility for all. Only the humble can serve when the logics is for him to rule and dominate.
In carrying the thought further, the great Apostle follow the same line of thought when he was talking to the elders of the church:
1Pe 5:3 KJV Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
Peter said rather than lord it over the Lord’s heritage they were to be examples to the sheep. Their lives should be imitated by the followers instead of compelling the people to obey and submit to their dictates. We should ministers. This is what Peter had to say again.
1Pe 4:10 KJV As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
The gift given to us are instruments and tools provided by God for us to use in order to serve the people. All the graces we have received in this life are the privileges we can use to better the lots of people.
Application in business
The principle of servant leadership is applicable in business, if you want to be the leader in your business, then render quality and affordable services to people and they will keep calling on you, thereby you will prosper and be the force to reckon with in the business.