Articles of Faith: Doing the Dirty Work

This post is part of our Sunday Series titled “Articles of Faith.”
We investigate leadership lessons from the Bible.
See the whole series here. Published only on Sundays.

One of my favorite lessons on servant leadership is from the Bible in the book of John. It is an example of humility, bravery, and action where Jesus washes the dirty feet of others. This is where the leader took the role of the person in the lowliest place to carry out something for the good of the team.

In searching out a way to tell the story, I could find no better way than to bring you directly to page 1299 of The Maxwell Leadership Bible (New King James Version) published by Thomas Nelson.

Here is how Dr. John C. Maxwell puts it:


Jesus Provides a Visual Aid (John 13: 1-17).

The Savior of the world proved Himself to be the greatest servant leader of all time. The story is familiar to many. When the disciples booked an upper room for their supper, they forgot to book a servant to wash dirty feet at the door, as was custom.

Yet when the disciples realized the servant was missing, none of them volunteered for the job. Instead, they argued over who was the greatest. When Jesus saw this, He decided to use the opportunity to present an object lesson. After supper, Jesus stripped down to a small piece of cloth around his waist, even looking the part of a servant. Then He took a basin of water and a towel and began washing the feet of His men. As He interacted with them, several lessons about servanthood became clear.

Christlike Servant Leaders…

1. Are motivate by love to serve others (John 13:1-2).
Jesus’ love was undeserved, unending, unconditional and unselfish. Love made him serve.

2. Posses a security that allows them to serve others (John 13:3).
The insecure are into titles; the secure are into towels. Jesus’ security enabled Him to both stoop and stretch.

3. Initiate servant ministry to others (John 13:4-5).
Jesus didn’t wait for someone to clarify protocol. He saw a need and met it.

4. Receive servant ministry for others (John 13:6-7).
A servant’s heart exposes pride in others. Peter had a hard time letting Jesus serve him.

5. Want nothing to hinder their relationship with God (John 13:8-9).
Peter moved from one extreme to another. If Jesus offered to wash him, he didn’t want to miss anything else he might do.

6. Teach servanthood by their example (John 13:12-15).
Jesus let them know that if the Master washed their feet, they ought to imitate Him.

7. Live a blessed life (John 13:16-17).
Jesus reminded His men that they were blessed if they obeyed Him.

What ought we do to imitate Jesus’ servant leadership?

  1. Put others ahead of your agenda.
  2. Develop the confidence and security to take risks.
  3. Look for a need and take initiative.
  4. Perform small acts anonymously.
  5. Learn to walk slowly through the crowd.
  6. Begin your day be reflecting on your love for others.
  7. Develop a bias for action.


Take a look at your daily role in leadership and ask yourself some hard questions. For instance: Are you acting like a servant leader in the eyes of others, or are you just acting “like a boss?” Do you sometimes do the dirty work as an example of leadership, or do you always make others do it? Do you lead by example well, or do you have challenges in this area? I would love to hear your stories of struggles and victories in this area!

Tom Schulte
is Executive Director of
Linked 2 Leadership &
CEO of Recalibrate Professional Development in Atlanta, GA USA.
He can be reached at

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2 responses to “Articles of Faith: Doing the Dirty Work

  1. I appreciate the link to my blog. I enjoyed the article you posted here. I especially like the idea of walking slowly through the crowd. Sometimes we get so busy that we miss great opportunities to serve the Lord and others! Great stuff!


    • Hi Andrew,

      I visited your site and would like to know if you would like to be considered to be a Contributing Author for the Articles of Faith Sunday Series on the Linked 2 Leadership site.

      Tom Schulte | L2L Publisher


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