“RULERS OR SERVANTS?”                        By Pastor YAU

Text: Mark 10:35-45                                       October 3, 2010.



1)     An act of a president: When George W. Bush was president, he made a surprised visit to serve Thanksgiving Day dinner to soldiers deployed overseas. One reporter covering the story thought that some soldiers might save their meal as a souvenir, explaining, “It’s not often that anyone is served a dinner by a president.” But we know that all elected officials are public servants, in a global and symbolic way, so they are always serving the people. So, an act of service by a public servant should not have been one of the biggest news items of the day.

2)    A lesson from the Lord: After giving the lesson on the costs and rewards of following him, Jesus told his disciples of his pending death and resurrection. James and John, thinking that they were closer to Jesus than all others, came to ask Jesus some special privilege of sitting on both sides when he is seated on the throne in heaven. This led him to give a very important lesson on the differences of being rulers of the world and servants in the kingdom of God. Then he told them his personal example that he didn’t come to be served but to serve, even to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)



1)       Rulers are necessary:In those day, Israel had no king, everyone did as he saw fit.” (Judges 17:6) This was the period of time when Israel had no rulers to set up rules and enforce the rules, so everyone acted what he wanted and it was a time of chaos. Just imagine if there were no government, no traffic laws, no police, no patrol cars on roads and streets, what kind of traffic you may expect every time you pull your car out of your garage. This is because the standards or conscience of each person is different and selfish. When each one acts on his/her own rules mostly for his own selfish purpose, all will suffer. In every society or social group, school, work place and family, there needs to have someone or ones to set up rules and enforce the rules.

2)       Rulers are to follow rules: The word ruler comes from “rule” which means “principles, procedures or measures acceptable by a group of people to set bounds, standards intended to conform actions and practices,” according to Encyclopedic Dictionary by the Reader’s Digest. Usually rulers were chosen to enforce rules so everyone within the group will follow for the good of the people. So, rulers are to set examples of following the rules to win the confidence of those they rule. Rulers are not above the rules. Their respect and obedience to rules make it possible to have the rule of law. When rulers don’t respect or follow the rules, there will be revolts and chaos in the society.

3)       Rulers and their pitfalls: Too many pitfalls most rulers will face as they try to rule over people. The first and the utmost is when they forget who put them to rule. From ancient times to the modern history, too many rulers forgot this principle: it is the people who put them to rule. They were chosen to be rulers by the people, they need to rule for the people, not for themselves, for the purpose and benefits of the people, not the purpose or benefits of themselves. All rulers, political, business or social, will fall by the people if they want to rule by their own purpose and agenda no matter how much he thinks he is right or better.

4)       Rulers are accountable: “But they will have to give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” (1 Peter 4:5) Peter was talking about we all have to be accountable to the Lord who will judge each person according to the things he had done while he is in his body. (2 Corinthians 5:10) Besides being accountable to God, rulers are also accountable to the people who put them in power to rule. This is true in today’s democratic society, it was also true in ancient time autocratic rules. When rulers do not rule for the well being of the people, they will ruin their power and lose the respect of their people and will be remove from power with severe consequences. All rulers need to respect both God and people to be good rulers.



1)   Servants don’t seek personal glory: “They replied: Let one of us sit at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory.” (10:37) James and John, being close to Jesus and may be a close relative, asked Jesus to give them prestigious position in His kingdom. This is intended to elevate their position, prestige and personal glory through serving the Lord. It is a very worldly, even carnal or sinful ambition. All servants of God should have only one purpose: to exalt Jesus so all may see him and be saved. But this sinful ambition is very much alive and kicking. Still many seeking personal glory through their service of God and His church. They will ruin themselves and their churches.

2)   Servants don’t persist wrong ways: “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” “We can,” they answered.” (10:38-39) With the rebuke and hash answers Jesus gave them, pointing out their ignorance, James and John insisted on their ambitious goal for personal glory. While we may make mistakes, serving God with impure motives, we need to repent and turn back from our wrong approach when we are reminded of spiritual principles either from God’s word or from well-meant Christian friends. We may be tempted to fall in serving God, but we should not continue our wrong path any longer.

3)   Servants don’t disrespect God: “But to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” (10:40) Each servants or slaves in a household, his position of service was assigned by the master and he was expected to obey and be willing to serve with all his strength and ability. Sometimes this is not the case in some servants of God in His house: some want to choose what they like to serve, some will even abandon their posts and left duties undone. If Jesus didn’t have the power to give a position, why some Christians insist on choosing their position or they won’t serve. We serve to meet the needs of God’s church, not to meet our personal interests or satisfaction.

4)   Servants don’t get in dissension: “When the ten heard about this they became indignant with James and John.” (10:41) Division, anger and dissension will arise within a group when someone or a group seeks personal gain or glory over others. This is true in the world and is also true in God’s church. Unity in the spirit and in approach is a goal all servants need to set their minds on and strive hard to maintain. Satan works best to disrupt and destroy God’s work by raising dissension and division among servants. We all need to be humble, to accommodate opinions and respect others as we try to work together to build God’s work. Never give Satan any foothold as we serve God’s church.



1)   Servants are not rulers: “Not this way with you.” (10:43) This is following the last sentence in 10:42, “Those who are regarded as rulers of the world lord it over them and their high officials exercise authority over them.” The first point Jesus tried to make to His disciples on being servants is servants do not lord over people and they have no power or authority over anyone. This is the most important rule all servants in God’s kingdom or houses need to remember: we are to serve, not to lord; we have duties, not authorities. Anyone who is entrusted a position to serve God in his house is a servant, not a ruler.

2)   Servants are great people: “Instead, whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant.” (10:43) Diaconos (deacon) in Greek are those who serve tables like waiters today. (Acts 6:1-3) This is about the lowliness of position without prestige or power. But these people are serving God and His business, their service is considered great because of their willingness and humility to serve God and people. While the world acclaims those who are served, God claims greatness for those who serve. In God’s house, all servants deserve our respect and support.

3)   Servants are God’s slaves: “And whoever wants to be first must be slaves of all.” (10:44) Doulos (slave) in Greek are those who sold themselves to someone else as bound slaves for life. They do not have rights, privilege or even identity on their own but that of their masters. They are property of their masters forever. These people are the lowest in all social level or classes. Jesus places those who want to serve Him on the lowest level of any social order. His intention is on how to achieve the “first” in the rank of God’s kingdom: we may achieve the highest by being on the lowest. What a contrast in position and honor to servant God and to be rulers in the world.

4)   The Servant of all servants: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (10:45) This is about the servant example Jesus was willing to take as he took on the image of a man and a servant to serve God’s purpose: to die as a ransom for many who would believe in Him and to receive eternal life. Jesus did more than just teach others on how to be good servants, he supported his teaching in his life by being a servant to God and to all people. He illustrated his servant duties not just by his teaching, feeding, healing and freeing people from the bondage of the power of Satan, He also demonstrated his true servant spirit by death on the cross. All servants of God have such a model of true spirit of servant to follow as we serve God and His people.



1)    The highest privilege: It is always a privilege and honor to be chosen to serve in any position, be it at school, in your business, in a social, governmental or any other civic or military entity. But none of all positions may compare to be chosen to serve God. None of anything we may serve in this world will count when we go to heaven, but our service to God that matters for eternity.

2)    The highest integrity: In serving any position on earth, we all need to serve with integrity and honor. Serving God takes much more integrity and honor if we will serve Him with humility, sincerity, willingness and loyalty. We need to follow His rules as we serve Him. He shall increase and we shall decrease.