But Jesus called them together and said, You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant…
Matthew 20:25-26 NLT
These wise words from Jesus remind me of the lessons my parents taught me. They were a great example of what it meant to live a life of service and helping others.
Growing up, our home was frequently filled with people. Almost every weekend, my parents would invite children from a nearby girls’ home to stay with us. These girls were treated no differently than if they were my sisters, as my parents warmly welcomed and included them in our everyday lives and activities.
Jesus’ statement in Matthew came during a discussion He was having with His disciples about leadership. They were inquiring about how they could get promoted up the ladder of authority in his organization. In fact, two of the disciples, James and John, had asked for the positions of second in command in the Kingdom.
Jesus responded by telling them that in the Kingdom of God, greatness is defined by how well we serve and by how much we help others.
This is certainly a contrast to what we hear in most parts of our society today. We typically look at our leaders and judge them by how many people they’re responsible for, by how much influence they have, and by the decisions they make. Whether it’s a CEO leading a business, a teacher leading a classroom, or a mother leading a family, we tend to judge them by how confident they look and by how much control they exert over the people following them.
Isn’t it wonderful to hear Jesus speak and realize that He doesn’t want us to do things the way the world around us does? In this case, He wants us to do just the opposite. Jesus says that those of us who are the real heroes, the ones He values most, are the people who help others.
My parents didn’t reach out to those young women for recognition or to earn some type of award. They did it out of a heartfelt desire to serve, and in doing so, modeled those values to me and my siblings.
Because of my parents’ example, giving back is now a way of life for me. My husband, Tony, and I choose to be involved with Title I schools. We visit with children, read to them, encourage them, and inspire them to dream.
Our hope is that our children will also develop a heart for serving others, following our lead, the legacy of my parents, and ultimately, Jesus’ desire for their lives.
Mom, my prayer is that you and your family will find a way to serve no matter how big or small. And, when you do, know that Jesus would say you are one of the leaders in His kingdom—the Kingdom of Heaven.
Lauren Dungy is the coauthor, along with her husband, Tony, of Austin Plays Fair and Maria Finds Courage. Lauren and Tony are the parents of ten children and are active in the foster parenting community, as well as numerous charities in the Tampa, Florida area and nationwide.