Greatness in God’s kingdom looks different than in the world. When the disciples gathered in the upper room to share their final meal with Jesus, He did something that shocked them. He wrapped a towel around His waist, grabbed a water basin and began to wash their dusty feet.
Jesus was teaching His disciples an important lesson: “The greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matt. 23:11). The word servant in that verse is the same word for “deacon” in today’s reading.
In the Greco-Roman world the role of a servant was considered undignified and unattractive. Yet, Jesus’ example had such a profound impact on the early church that one of the respected offices of church leadership was called “servant” or deacon.
Today’s reading outlines the qualifications for the role. They are strikingly similar to those for an overseer. Deacons are to control their appetites either for alcohol or money (v. 8). They are to hold to correct doctrine (v. 9). They are to pass the test of public scrutiny (v. 10). Finally, they are to be faithful to their spouse and manage their children and home with integrity (v. 12).
Commentators debate whether or not the women mentioned in verse 11 are the wives of deacons, or female deacons. Whoever Paul had in mind, they were expected to exhibit the same kind of blameless character in their personal and private lives as those addressed in verses 8–10.
>> Are you called to lead or to serve? It is human to long for positions of respect and authority, even in the church. But the very title of the office of deacon reminds us that we serve a Savior whose life was characterized by an attitude of humble service. He calls us to live with a different approach to greatness and leadership.
We ask the Lord to help us live according to His teaching. We thank Christ that He left His heavenly glory and became a servant clothed in humility. Do we have the courage to humble ourselves in the same way?