THE SERVANT GENERAL
THE CALL TO HOLINESS
THE HOLY SERVANT LEADER
To be holy is to be set apart. It is to be different from
the world and its ways. This is the call to Christians, but
many of them do not understand this call. Even many who are
religious, and many who serve in the Church. This was the
case with religiously-observant servant leaders during Jesus’
time--the scribes and the Pharisees. They have many counterparts
among leaders in the Church today.
What is authentic and holy servant leadership, that sets them
apart from worldly leadership?
it is not about power or position. “The scribes and
the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.”
(Mt 23:2). To be a leader does involve power (or authority)
and position, but a holy servant leader is to be a servant
who happens to be assigned to lead, or to be a leader who
knows he is first and foremost a servant.
it is not about prominence or acclaim. “All their works
are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and
lengthen their tassels.” (Mt 23:5). Holy servant leaders
serve quietly and simply, without pomp or fanfare, without
needing to be recognized or credited.
it is not about honor and glory. “They love places of
honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings
in marketplaces, and the salutation, ‘Rabbi.’”
(Mt 23:6-7). Though good leaders are honored by those they
serve well, holy servant leaders care not and do not look
for such honor. What they desire is that to God be all the
honor and glory. “Do not be called ‘Master’;
you have but one master, the Messiah.” (Mt 23:10).
it is not just about religious observance or compliance, but
about living a holy life. The scribes and Pharisees were meticulous
in observance of the law, but their hearts and minds were
not really conformed to God. So too are many Church leaders
who live sinful lives and who do not strive for holiness.
“But to the wicked God says: ‘Why do you recite
my commandments and profess my covenant with your mouth? You
hate discipline; you cast my words behind you!’”
leaders even go to Church, and participate in the holy sacrifice
of the Mass. “What do I care for the multitude of your
sacrifices? says the Lord.” (Is 1:11a). Such leaders
think of fulfilling their obligations but just in compliance,
but with their hearts far from God. “Trample my courts
no more! To bring offerings is useless; incense is an abomination
to me. New moon and sabbath, calling assemblies--festive convocations
with wickedness--these I cannot bear.” (Is 1:13).
God does not reject overt religious observance. “Not
for your sacrifices do I rebuke you” (Ps 50:8a). Rather,
God is concerned with the condition of our lives. God looks
to authentic praise and worship, manifested by obedience to
His commands and living His covenant. “Offer praise
as your sacrifice to God; fulfill your vows to the Most High.”
(Ps 50:14). God looks to holiness and reject those who remain
in serious sin. “When you spread out your hands, I will
close my eyes to you; though you pray the more, I will not
listen. Your hands are full of blood!” (Is 1:15).
it is not just about teaching others but about observing one’s
own teaching. It is walking the talk. “For they preach
but they do not practice.” (Mt 23:3b). Do you recognize
such teachers, who do not follow community teaching, such
as avoiding gossip, not maligning or slandering others, causing
dissension, forming factions?
What then should holy servant leaders do?
avoid sin. “Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds
from before my eyes; cease doing evil” (Is 1:16). Among
serious sins are:
“If you see a thief, you run with him” (Ps 50:18a).
Sexual licentiousness. “With adulterers you throw
in your lot” (Ps 50:18b). It is not just adultery,
but sex outside sacramental marriage, for all irregular
unions, including gay sex.
of the tongue, engaging in gossip, deception, maligning
and slander. “You give your mouth free rein for evil;
you yoke your tongue to deceit. You sit and speak against
your brother, slandering your mother’s son.”
When we do such things, we are no longer set apart for God.
We are no longer walking His path. Then God, who created us
in His image and likeness, who desires for us to be truly
His children, who calls as to holiness just like Him, will
say: “When you do these things should I be silent? Do
you think that I am like you?” (Ps 50:21a). God wants
us to be like Him, but it is we who decide that we are not
we not only avoid sin, but we must do good. Not just no negatives
but pile on the positives. “Learn to do good”
(Is 1:17a). What is it to do good? It is to be just. “Make
justice your aim” (Is 1:17b). What is justice? It is
doing what is right and giving to the other person what is
his due. To God is due worship. To others is due respect as
creatures of God made in His image and likeness. To the poor
is due an equitable share of the world’s goods. The
poor are especially loved by God. Holy servant leaders are
mindful of God’s heart for the poor. They are called
on to “redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s
plea, defend the widow.” (Is 1:17c).
holy servant leaders remain humble, especially as they are
honored and acclaimed. God does want His instruments, His
servant leaders, to be recognized, accepted and honored, given
the good work that they do. But God teaches them that the
first is last and the greatest is the least and the leader
is the servant. “The greatest among you must be your
servant.” (Mt 23:11). The opposite of humility, which
is pride, is the greatest threat and causes the downfall of
many servant leaders. So remain humble, and look only to God
for honor. “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Mt 23:12).
Servant leaders, are you striving for holiness? Do you hate
sin and repent when you do fall? Are you humble before your
God, Savior and Master? “Come now, let us set things
right, says the Lord” (Is 1:18a). Be holy, and you will
be fruitful in your service, as the Lord intends. “If
you are willing and obey, you shall eat the good things of
the land” (Is 1:19).