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  • Writer's pictureKristina Trott

Humble Nehemiah vs. Ambitious John and James: Unveiling Leadership Lessons in Servanthood




I’ve got Bibles scattered all over my house so that I can read one whenever I sit down. Today I read an excerpt about the rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem from the book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament as I ate breakfast, and a New Testament incident where James and John, two of Jesus' disciples, approached him with a request to sit on his right and left hand in his kingdom, seeking positions of power and authority, as I sipped my morning chai.


Although the 2 incidents seemed unrelated, as I thought about them a common theme emerged. Let’s backtrack because not everyone is familiar with these 2 incidents.


Nehemiah served as the cupbearer to the king of Persia, Artaxerxes I. Upon hearing about the distressed state of Jerusalem and its broken-down walls, Nehemiah felt compelled to seek permission from the king to return and oversee the rebuilding process. The king granted Nehemiah's request, and he arrived in Jerusalem.


Nehemiah shared his plan with the people of Jerusalem, and they all agreed to rebuild the walls. Nehemiah organised the people into different groups and assigned them sections of the wall to work on. Despite facing opposition and ridicule from neighbouring enemies, Nehemiah and his servants worked diligently to rebuild the wall, each focussing on their assigned tasks.


During this time, the governor of the region sent several letters to Nehemiah, attempting to distract him from his work and even inviting him to meet. However, Nehemiah refused to be compromised and recognised that his mission was to restore Jerusalem, not to indulge in worldly affairs or accept food from the governor. Nehemiah remained focussed on his duty as a servant of God.


The New Testament incident (Mk 10:35-45) has Jesus rebuking James and John and explaining that they did not understand the concept of servanthood and the nature of his kingdom. He told them that positions of honour were not for him to grant; rather, they would be given to those prepared by God.


Jesus emphasised that greatness in His kingdom was found in serving others rather than seeking positions of authority or power.


Jesus used himself as an example, stating, "Even the Son of Man came not to be served but to be a servant—to offer His life as a ransom for others." Jesus taught that true greatness and honour in His kingdom came from a humble heart and a willingness to serve others.


These two stories showcase the importance of being humble and serving others, as demonstrated by Nehemiah and Jesus. Both individuals prioritised their duties as servants of their respective causes over personal desires for power and recognition.


This really is the essence of what Jesus has asked us to do. Rather than serve the “little god” in our human natures, and feed pride, greed, evil desires and selfishness, we are to look to our big God who demonstrated what it means when we discard the burden of sin. By becoming like Jesus who was “gentle and humble of heart,” following Him as our Lird and Master, we will find rest for our weary souls.


28 Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Put My yoke upon your shoulders—it might appear heavy at first, but it is perfectly fitted to your curves. Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. When you are yoked to Me, your weary souls will find rest. (Matt. 11:28-29).


All quotes are from The Voice.

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