Jesus made a lot of challenging statements in the Bible: he told us to love our neighbour as ourselves, to give even in the face of injustice, and to reserve judgement in light of our own failings. These are all issues that I find come up in my life regularly.
“You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.”
Now that’s challenging. In churches and organisations I’ve been part of, being a servant is generally the last thing on people’s minds. In a culture where success is dominated by visions of cash and power, the thought of service doesn’t rate a mention; what’s more important is securing your role and working hard to be well positioned for the next job opportunity that arises.
The thing is that God never called us to power or titles; he called us to serve. The Kingdom of God is not one of excess and pomp; it’s one of grace and love. It’s in this attitude that we can see the death of pride, which is the root of so many of the issues we encounter (and cause) every day. When pride rears its head, we see political maneuvers and power plays that fly in the face of the example Jesus set for us.
At my workplace, service is in our values. The exact wording says:
“We hear Christ’s call to servant hood and see the example of his life. We commit ourselves to a servant spirit permeating the organisation. We know this means facing honestly our own pride, sin and failure.”
I don’t know how well I always measure up to that. In fact, I see in my life many failings when I look at the way pride sometimes directs my actions. I know one thing, though: if we’re willing to humble ourselves and serve honestly, Christ will lift us up. That doesn’t necessarily mean the world’s way of being “lifted up”; it’s God’s way of honouring those who genuinely serve without a mandate to get ahead themselves.
And that’s the flip side to service – it brings with it the great reward that only giving can bring; the satisfaction of the job itself being done. Matthew Barnett says that if you live for the handout, you’ll only be happy on Christmas and your birthday, but if you live your life for giving, you can be happy every day of the year.
That’s something worth pursuing.