Servanthood for Dummies

In Washington D.C. there’s a bronze statue by sculptor Jimilu Mason. It’s a modern take on Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. In this portrayal, Jesus wears modern clothing — a sweatshirt and pants — but no shoes. Even more intriguingly, the sculpture is situated directly in front of Christ House, which is a medical facility for homeless men.

It’s an amazing portrayal of servanthood. And could there be a more fitting location for such a statue?

That being said, the statue begs a question. Or maybe a whole set of questions.

What does a servant of God really look like? Is there a clear job description for this position? Is there maybe a book I can read titled “Servanthood for Dummies?”

Paul says, “Yes, there is! I wrote that book. Just take a look at what our life has looked like since we began to follow Jesus. Observe how my missionary team and I served unchurched people and pursued sharing the gospel with them.”

Paul draws a portrait of great endurance, hard work, sacrifice and deprivation. He gives us a portrayal of pursuing a life of great character and sincere love. His description paints a picture of weathering dishonor and disgrace.

Servanthood is a willingness to endure pain and shame, and yet not lose your joy or your energy for sharing Jesus with others. It is simultaneously displaying a willingness to generously give away everything you have for the sake of the gospel, while acknowledging and rejoicing in the immense riches you already possess.

“Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything” (2 Corinthians 6:4-10, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Isaiah 3:1 – 5:7, 2 Corinthians 6:3 – 7:1 and Psalm 105:12-22.

Lord Jesus, thank you for making me immensely and eternally wealthy. I possess everything because of you. Help me to keep your servanthood (and Paul’s) in mind as I aspire to my own servanthood. Make me willing to live a sacrificial life here as my way of thanking you for all you have done for me, and as a way of sharing the gospel with those around me.

Header image based on "04.AdamsMorgan.WDC.17September2014" by Elvert Barnes, CC By-SA 2.0

Who Gets the Glory?

It’s called the “big reveal.” Maybe it’s one of those TV programs like Extreme Weight Loss, where a person has lost a major amount of weight and gotten themselves back into shape. Maybe it’s a show on HGTV like Fixer Upper, where a wreck of a house is turned into a gorgeous home.

It’s an emotional moment. A major transformation has occurred. And it’s very satisfying to see the end result of a lot of hard work.

Sometimes we too look back at work we’ve accomplished, and it brings us great satisfaction. We feel something important and valuable has been accomplished. And that feels good. We’re extremely enthusiastic about what’s been accomplished.

This is exactly where Paul is emotionally as he nears the end of three missionary journeys and more than a dozen years of work. He’s excited about all that’s been accomplished.

But it’s pretty cool to see how humbly Paul approaches those accomplishments. They’re not really his accomplishments at all, Paul writes. They’re Jesus’ accomplishments. He was merely the conduit for those blessings that the Gentiles are enjoying. The glory all belongs to Christ.

It was Paul’s service. But it was God’s achievement. God’s success. Paul is no less proud of all this — not because of what he had done, but because of what Jesus had done.

As we look back on the things we’ve accomplished in the past year — or the past decade — as we review our service to God, to our families, to our places of work, to our neighborhoods and communities — how do we see it? Do we see it as something we accomplished, something we can boast about, something that will bring glory and renown to us?

Or do we recognize that we were merely the conduit, the person that God was working through, so that he could accomplish what he wanted to accomplish through us? Do we realize that the important thing is to lift God’s name high, and bring glory to Jesus rather than to ourselves?

“Soli deo gloria,” the early Roman Christians used to say, using Latin, the language of their homeland. To God alone be the glory!

“Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done” (Romans 15:17-18, NIV).

Lord, thank you for working through me to accomplish your purposes. All that has been accomplished through me is your achievement, not mine. It’s your success, and your glory. And that is my joy! May all I think, do and say bring glory to you alone!

Our Bible reading for Sunday, August 2, is 1 Chronicles 12:23 – 14:17, Romans 15:14-33 and Psalm 90:1-10.

Header image based on "Soli Deo Gloria" by Alper Cugen, CC By 2.0