The Five Contradictions of the Servant Gift


The men and women at church operating with the redemptive gifting of a servant are almost always obvious. Whether printing flyers, setting up coffee, fixing anything broken, or just vacuuming the hallways, they arrive first and leave last. They serve on committees and stand in for Sunday school teachers who can’t make it last minute.

Pastors love them. And it is so easy to see why. Servants don’t fuss. They just get the job done with little or no drama. But in the busyness of church life, the ones with a true servant gifting are often overlooked for what is their truest and deepest callings. Shoved into Martha roles, they are often the exceptions to the Mary and Martha story. They turn into Martha’s when, in truth, they often have the heart of a Mary.

1: Those with a servant gift are often overlooked for positions of authority…but theirs is the highest spiritual authority of all the gifts.

God entrusts servants with incredible authority for one main reason. They obey. This isn’t about being a rule follower. Mature servants followservant their Master, and because of this, He listens when they pray. A good servant learns to listen closely to what is needed and then follow instructions meticulously. Because of this, this humble redemptive gift is filled with people who have trained themselves to hear God’s voice.

This attentiveness to what God is saying means they ask rightly and with a lowly spirit. Of all the giftings, the devil finds this one the most inexplicable… and untouchable. Humility, service, and obedience are the exact opposite of what he is about. And because of these three traits of a servant, he has the least entry into their spiritual walk.

2: Servants see the filthiest and ugliest parts of humanity…but they stay undefiled in a wicked world.

Think about it. The janitors of the world clean up after the rest of us and it is probably pretty disgusting. Cleaning is the one thing that the servant gifting is most associated with. But pastors err when they let their precious and humble servers clean the sanctuary. The servant gifting is about sweeping clean the spiritual atmosphere. Pay someone else to clean the bathroom and clear out the fridge. Get your servers active in intercessory prayer.

I don’t mean to devalue cleaning. I believe in an orderly life. But you know you have the gifting of a servant when you can move among the lost and disreputable people of the world (like Jesus) and come away unscathed. I remember Brennan Manning telling a story about running into a drunk on the street and recognizing him as a successful businessman from the past. Manning, who has a servant’s heart, ran up to him and knelt before him. “How can I serve you?” he asked.

Nothing else but the pure and humble heart of a servant could have reached that man lost to the ravages of alcoholism. A transforming miracle followed. But that is what servants do. They pull lost and dirty treasure from the dust heap and make them like new.

3: Servants understand the value of honor…yet they are most likely to be dishonored, even in their own homes.

Every redemptive gift has its particular areas of wounding. Pride is probably the most common sin that humanity suffers from. Because it is the natural servantresponse of a servant to give honor to others, those with pride often take it as their due. They see the service of a servant as subservience and somehow, it gets twisted in their minds that the person with a servant gift owes them service. Instead of seeing it as an extension of grace, pride accepts service as something it is entitled to.

I often test the health of family systems by looking at how service is both delivered and received. If I see a rundown mom cleaning up after her teenagers or a dad martyring themselves to pay for things they cannot afford for a demanding child, I begin to suspect that the gift of service is being dishonored. To some degree, this is the fault of an immature servant. But I always cringe when I see a man or woman who gives themselves to their church or family dishonored for the very thing which elevates them in God’s eyes.

4: Servants walk in humility…but often undervalue their worth.

Prophets and rulers often think too highly of themselves, but a man or a woman with a servant gift often catastrophically miscalculates their worth. Defining themselves by their mistakes, convinced that everyone else is smarter than them, or just magnifying their deficits, servants do the world and themselves no favor by not fully exploring their talents. Inferiority complexes seem to haunt the servant gift, but in truth, the world would end without faithful service.

This devaluation can lead to a martyr complex, complaining, or just over committing and under-delivering. Servants burn the candle at both ends and get burnt out eventually. Learning to set firm boundaries, especially with family, can alleviate the resentment and hurt that immature servants often suffer from. No one can go overlooked forever without losing steam.

5: Servants have highly specialized spiritual duties…but everyone suffers if they allow their feelings of being ‘unqualified’ to win out over their calling.

The servant has the power to shift atmospheres. Their inherent truthfulness and faithful character bring great blessing and healing. In fact, servanthood is the gift most closely aligned with healing. Having God’s trust brings the servant authority over death. Jesus, the ultimate suffering servant, defeated it for us.

Having people present in your church, who by their quiet and faithful intercession, loving acts of service, and consistent humility serve the body is crucial. Prophets can come and go. Teachers are easily forgotten as are encouragers. Rulers can be divisive and the mercy gift tends to tear down structures if unchecked. But a mature servant moves in favor. The beauty of that is they don’t do it for favor but because they want to do the right thing.

Every person has their unique combination of gifts and faults. But if a servant can learn to delegate, please God over man, and overcome the codependent tendencies of this gift, they are arguably the most powerful. Imagine Frodo without Sam. Frodo was right to tell Sam that Sam was the true hero of the story. If you have someone with the gift of service in your life, make sure you rightly value them. Odds are you would not be where you are without them.


I hate recommending expensive things. But I will say that this series by Arthur Burk taught me so much that I still go back and listen to his work on the redemptive gifts. If you are a serious student of the Word, you will never see creation, the tabernacle, or Jesus’ seven sayings on the cross the same again. Mind-blowing.

God Doesn’t Want to Use You; Why You Need to Stop Asking

11 Replies to “The Five Contradictions of the Servant Gift”

  1. What an insightful post! Thanks so much for sharing. Many of the points I have observed in my life and the lives of those around me but I feel I’m better equipped to respond to those situations now 🙂 I know it sounds cheesy but it’s true 🙂

  2. May I share on my Two Cent Pearls FB page?

    1. Absolutely! Share wherever you like! Thanks for the read and the comment!

  3. I’m fascinated by spiritual gifts and am loving learning more about them as you share your posts. I’ve watched these things happen my whole life to my mom who has a beautiful servant’s heart. You’re so right that servants often get devalued in the church and I’ve seen that cause then to devalue themselves, too. Thanks for such an insightful look into this gift.

  4. The servants really my favorite. When done in the name of Jesus, they have such grace and humility! It was a reminder to me that I need to focus on my service, not the credit.

  5. Wonderful insight into yet another spiritual gift, Alice! I’m close to several people who noticeably exhibit this gift of the Spirit, and all you had to say was accurate to them. I’ve seen in these two people a reluctance to use the word “no” because they genuinely want to serve Christ, but they end up getting delegated about every menial task for the church which gets frustrating to watch. Thanks again for offering such wonderful words of insight once again, Alice!

  6. What a great, insightful post! I pray I can become a more faith-filled Christ-like servant!

  7. hisdearlyloveddaughter says: Reply

    Love the distinction between a mature servant and an immature one! This post is a great one to chew on for awhile! My mind is racing trying to think through different ways a church (specifically my own church) could most effectively nurture, encourage, and utilize their servants. Lots to think about!

  8. “If you have someone with the gift of service in your life, make sure you rightly value them. Odds are you would not be where you are without them.” So many times it’s the person with the servant heart that is overlooked. Thank you for this reminder to value them and tell them so. Blessings to you! I’m your neighbor at #TrekkingThru.

  9. So insightful Alice! It actually made me think of my husband…it was almost like seeing him anew, with his servant’s heart!

  10. This is really insightful and interesting. I haven’t seen the servant gift broken down this way before. Would love to read more;

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