Most leaders attempt to exalt themselves into higher positions of leadership. 

Jesus breaks the paradigm by teaching that “servant leaders humble themselves and wait for God to exalt them.”  When Jesus ate at a leading Pharisee’s house, he taught them a parable and illustrated that someone should not even desire to sit at the head table but instead seek out the lowliest place possible (Luke 14:8).

Nearing his death, Jesus even taught his disciples that no one should even aspire to an office of leadership (Matt 23:10).  Combating the Pharisees who thought that their efforts earned them special places of leadership in God’s eyes, Jesus actually opposed the very notion of a person desiring to be a leader based on one’s perceived qualifications.  Since Christians are to have one leader in the person of Christ (Matt 23:10), Christians are to maintain a humble perspective concerning their own positions.

Following this statement on leadership, Jesus then stated, “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted” (Matt 23:12).  This leadership concept is shocking and completely countercultural to most potential leaders in current times.  Jesus promised people who if they are able to shift the paradigm in their thinking and learn truly to humble themselves, God himself will exalt that person.  Contrastingly, the person who attempts to exalt himself or herself, that person will be opposed by the Almighty God who has promised to humble them.

A Christian is never to pursue an office of leadership since all leadership is granted by God and the opportunity is provided as a stewardship from God.

If God truly desires someone to serve as a leader, he will provide that opportunity personally.

The totality of Scripture backs up Jesus’ statement that God can and will dramatically humble those who try to promote themselves and their own agenda for the sake of leadership status. 

A humble leader must refrain from personal comparison to other leaders.  A leader who desires to lead like Jesus must learn to wait upon God’s timing, and a genuine Christian leader will desire to follow Jesus more than aspire to a higher position.

As Jesus humbly washed his disciples’ feet during the Last Supper (John 13:5-20), he exemplified true humility.  Not only was the task of washing feet an unthinkable lowly task, Jesus, sovereign in knowledge, willfully washed the feet of Judas who would soon betray him (John 18:1-9), Peter who would deny him (John 18:25-27), and the remaining ten disciples who would abandon him in the very coming hours (Matt 26:56).  While most people would not even imagine humbling oneself in such circumstances, Jesus revealed his ability to humble himself (Jas 4:10), and people who desire to be leaders like Jesus must commit to humbling themselves as well.

Travis Agnew is a Christian, husband, father, pastor, author, blogger, and religion instructor.