In a society that values self-promotion (check out a Google search and find some interesting titles), choosing a servant lifestyle that lifts up others seems like a recipe for disaster or, at least, humiliation. In our competitive society, why should we let someone get ahead of us on the ladder of success?
But Jesus calls us to humble ourselves and follow Him. Instead of promoting ourselves, He demands we deny ourselves. His teaching is diametrically opposed to the self-centered, self-promoting lifestyle we too often encounter. And it's not just about what others do. It's us too! If our selfish desires point one way, Jesus' calling to us points in the opposite direction. The two are poles apart, 180 degree difference. Serving others is the antidote to the spiritual disease of Self, our default disposition to please and pamper ourselves. It's not about us anymore. It's about Jesus and others.
Are you willing to humble yourself and serve others? Even when no one else knows and there is no warm fuzzy feeling to go along with it? Years ago I came across the poem by Ruth Harms Calkin entitled "I Wonder".
You know, Lord, how I serve You With great emotional fervor in the limelight. You know how eagerly I speak for You at a women’s club. You know how I shine when I promote a fellowship group. You know my genuine enthusiasm at a Bible study.
But how would I react, I wonder, If You pointed to a basin of water And asked me to wash the calloused feet Of a bent and wrinkled old woman, Day after day, Month after month, In a room where nobody saw And nobody knew.
Wow! What insight! The final words are haunting: "In a room where nobody saw and nobody knew". Sometimes serving is a lot easier than at other times.
As Jesus followers, however, serving isn’t just what we do; a servant is who we are. It is your new lifestyle. If you know and follow Jesus, who are you? You are a servant of the Most High God. When you serve others, you are literally serving Jesus Christ Himself. What a powerful calling and identity!
Jesus really brings this home in Matthew 25:34-40. He tells us that, in the last days, the King will separate everyone to His right and to His left. Then He will say to the righteous ones on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me some-thing to eat. I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited Me in. I needed clothes and you clothed Me. I was sick and you looked after Me. I was in prison and you came to visit Me."
The righteous ones are astonished, of course, and ask, "Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and invite You in, or needing clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick or in prison and go to visit You?"
And the King will reply, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did it unto Me."
If it will be a surprise to the righteous ones on His right, it will be a devastating shock to the unrighteous ones on His left - the ones who did not serve others, who ignored those in need. He will say to them, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." Wow! What horror!
Because the unrighteous did not serve those in need, they did not serve Jesus. When they ignored hurting people, they ignored Jesus. This teaching certainly gives us an urgency to help others.
When we serve those in need, we are serving Jesus!