Always Make Sure Your Servant's Towel is Bigger Than Your Ego
"Always make sure your servant's towel is bigger than your ego". I heard that quote recently from a viral video online of a commencement address. I don't know the man's name or the origination of the quote, but the speaker got it from his father who may have gotten it from his. That isn't what matters. What matters is the vital truth that quote is teaching about leadership.
If you are familiar at all with the gospel of John, you may recognize the imagery in the quote. In John 13, Jesus is having the Passover meal with his disciples. Sometime during the supper, Jesus got up, took off his robe, and tied a towel around his waist. He then brought in a basin of water and proceeded to wash the disciples feet. This seems innocent enough, but once you understand the culture of that day you will see that what Jesus did was shocking.
The streets of Palestine during this time would have been beyond dirty. Dust, waste, and other filth would get on the feet of travelers are they walked the roads. It was customary when someone had a visitor that they would also provide a servant to wash the traveler's feet. It was a lowly task. The disciples probably would have been happy to wash Jesus' feet, but they couldn't conceive of washing each others. It blew their minds when Jesus put on the garb of a servant and began washing their feet.
What is interesting is that one of the disputes the gospel writers point out that the disciples had was on who among them would be considered the greatest in God's Kingdom. They all wanted to be Jesus' right hand man when he established his rule (which also shows their misunderstanding of the type of Messiah Jesus was). So given that, it must have humbled them and shamed them that Jesus would be willing to serve them in this capacity. Peter even verbally rebuked Jesus only to be rebuked in return (John 13:8).
Jesus was modeling for them selfless service. One of Jesus' qualifications in being a follower of him is that you deny yourself. This applies to leadership as well. Those whom Jesus calls to lead his church are also called to be it's chief servants. To Jesus those desiring to be great must first be willing to become the least, and those wanting to be first must be willing to become the last. Jesus was visibly portraying for them a great cultural reversal. Do not seek to exalt yourself, but lower yourself and you will be exalted at the right time.
A true leader in the church is one who willingly picks up the servants towel and serves God's people. He/she doesn't seek fame or glory or power or wealth but serves the church and stores up treasures in heaven. The command of Jesus to all he has called to serve his church is to lay aside our pride and our egos and pick up a towel and a water basin. If our Master did this, how much more should we in following his example.
So whether you lead a class or teach a group or head up a ministry, remember that your primary calling is to serve the Bride of Christ. You help set the standard by modeling true Christ-like service, and then people will follow. That is biblical model of leadership.