Confessions of a Bad Servant

July 06, 2017

My office is in downtown San Antonio. My daily walk from my parking garage to my building takes me right through the heart of one of our city’s gathering places for homeless folks. Years ago, when I first started making this walk, my heart went out to these men and women and I found myself giving to them pretty regularly. Over time, I felt like I needed to develop some “rules” about who I would give to and under what circumstances. If I am going to be a servant, after all, there have to be some parameters. You know what I mean: (1) no money for anyone who smells of alcohol, (2) no money for anyone who is rude, (3) no money next time for anyone who doesn’t seem grateful this time, etc. The list of rules has grown over time.

It has occurred to me this week as I prepare to teach John 13:1-17 that, with regard to servanthood, Jesus not only demonstrated WHAT to do, but He demonstrated HOW to do it. He could have done the foot washing by just standing up, grabbing a wash basin, and quickly going through the motions, but He did not do that. He made it a point to first take on the form of a slave before he even began the work. Far beyond the mere act of serving, He gave us an insight into the attitude of serving, i.e., the condition of the heart of the servant.

Servants do not serve with a list of rules about the condition under which they will serve. Servants do not come to their master with a list of terms for their “service agreement”. Isn’t this what Jesus meant in this passage when He reminds us that “no servant is greater than His master…”? I am deciding that the only “rules” I should have in my heart about when, where and whom I serve is (1) a humble attitude and (2) to work diligently to meet the need before me. And note, these rules are for me, and not for the person I serve.

But there was one other area of conviction for me. It comes from a bit of dialog out of Ron Hall’s and Denver Moore’s book, Same Kind of Different as Me. Denver (the homeless man) has asked Ron (the Christian “servant” businessman) what he wants with him, i.e., why he comes to the mission to serve. Ron says, “I just want to be your friend.” Denver thinks about this for a few days and then hits Ron with this bit of wisdom:

“I heard that when white folks go fishin they do somethin called ‘catch and release…That really bothers me…I just can’t figure it out. ‘Cause when colored folks go fishin, we really proud of what we catch, and we take it and show it off to everybody that’ll look. Then we eat what we catch…in other words we use it to sustain us. So it really bothers me that white folks would go to all that trouble to catch a fish, then when they done caught it, just throw it back in the water… So, Mr. Ron, it occurred to me: If you is fishin for a friend you just gon’ catch and release, then I ain’t got no desire to be your friend.”

Ouch.

I really have a lot to learn about the Christian discipline of servanthood.

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