One of the paradoxes of our high calling is that we are called to serve. Baptism into Christ elevates us to the status of brethren of the Son of God. Whereas we were “dead in sins”, we have been raised up with Christ, and “made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus”! Our future prospect as heirs with Christ is to rule with him, as he has “made us unto God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth”. All of this sounds inconsistent with the requirements of discipleship now. Now is the time of our probation. All that we hope to become depends on our compliance with the commandments of our Lord, as servants of the Lord.

In his closing words the Lord issued words of warning to his servants. He postulated the question: “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his Lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?” There is more than a passing analogy in these words with the realities of discipleship. Indeed we all do belong to a household, the household of faith; and we do have a commission to serve—to give to the members of the household “meat in due season” (Matt 24:45). The tendency is to forget that we have been called to service often of the humblest kind. The nature of this “meat in due season” is defined by the Lord in the parable which follows in Matthew 25. The Lord outlined why it was that certain had been placed among the sheep at his right hand and invited to “inherit the Kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world”. To quote his words, “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me”. It is notable that none of these faithful acts were public, flamboyant or easy to be seen. Sometimes we might be tempted to seek recognition for what we have done in service to Christ. We must be careful not to do our “righteousness” before men (Matt 6:1 margin). Jesus warns us that if we do our works of service before men then verily we have our reward. We will have received in the adulation of men what we really sought after, and having received our reward now, we cannot expect one in the future. It is a very common human weakness to seek the good opinion of our fellows. We can so easily drop words and hints that reflect well upon our level of service and devotion.

This particular charge could not be made against the “sheep” who were put on the Son of Man’s right hand. They were unaware that they had actually served him when in humble service they provided for the needs of their brethren. It is the King who points out that in serving his brethren, even the least of them, they were in fact serving him! This is a point we sometimes find hard to grasp. Christ identifies with his brethren, even the humblest. He finds no pleasure in showy actions done for the wrong motives, yet ostensibly in his service. It is notable that those who are rejected by him in his portrait of the judgment seat protested that they had done works, all of which were very visible and thus liable to attract the praise of men: “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt 7:22,23). There is a solemn warning here for all Christ’s servants. Whilst in the very vocation of service for his name in fact they were not serving him; he did not even know them! It is arresting and hard to understand! but this only underlines the need for us to be honest with ourselves. Whom are we serving, Christ or self? We must see Christ in all his brethren and treat them with due respect. Service to them, Christ’s “little ones”, as he was want to call them, is accepted as service to him!

So the difficult thing for prospective kings, who are now, in the days of their flesh, servants, is to serve and to be diligent, and not to say, “Our Lord delayeth his coming”. This service must be to the household, and in the humble unseen acts of mercy and love. In these there is not the scope for wrong motives as there is in the more ostentatious duties of ecclesial service.

We need to be more conscious of God than of man. We profess to believe that He knows and is able to separate between the thoughts and intents (motives) of our hearts (Heb 4:12,13)! If this is so let us undertake the work of our Lord, however menial or insignificant it may be. We know that the Lord will judge righteously. This day of judgment is coming. Then He will “bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God” (1Cor 4:5).

As a final thought, consider the words of the Lord which bear directly on what we have said:

“Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister [Gk doulos, slave]: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant [doulos] 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 10:42–45).