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Being a servant is both giving and receiving
Bible Speaks
Rev. L. Althouse

June 25, 2006
Background Scripture: 1 Corinthians 4:1-13. Devotional Reading: Matthew 23:8-12.

Charles B. Templeton tells of a friend of his, a Toronto businessman, who came to him driving a great black Cadillac. “You’re very prosperous these days,” joked Templeton. In all seriousness, his friend replied, “”Why, God gave me this Cadillac!”

“That’s interesting,” Templeton replied. His friend went on to say what has become a kind of mantra among some preachers: “I think God wants his children to have the best.”

I believe, too, that God wants his children to “have the best,” but I do not believe that “the best” necessarily should be equated with material prosperity.

Unfortunately, many of us are not at our “best” when we have the “best” that money can buy. A poll taken a few years ago indicated that married couples often looked back to their early days of financial struggle as the happiest days of their marriage. The “best” has more to do with the spirit than our possessions.

A Cadillac or a cross?
Templeton says he replied to his friend: “You know, it’s interesting that God gave you a Cadillac; he gave his only begotten son a cross. He gave his first and best disciple decapitation, imprisonment, stoning, shipwreck and all the thousand other troubles that he faced.”

Christians with the expectation of greater ease, prosperity and protection from harm, may find the reality of Christian discipleship as a great shock.

Of course, those of you who read this are not likely to face martyrdom for the sake of Christ, but all of us who choose to follow Jesus are challenged to be servants and stewards, prospects which are not likely to be any more attractive to us than martyrdom.

In fact, martyrdom might be a bit more desirable because at least it has some status. Still, we need to remember that Jesus himself demonstrated when he washed the feet of his disciples (Jn. 13:1-17) and then instructed his disciples: “If I then your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”

And Paul makes it abundantly clear what it means to follow Christ: “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” (1 Cor. 4:1)

Most free
For most of us, servanthood seems a loss of rank, esteem and autonomy. But it is all in how you look at it. Martin Luther put it like this: “A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone.”

We think of it as giving instead of receiving, when, in fact, it is both. It is not something imposed from without and accepted with resentment, but something we impose upon ourselves from within and accepted with joy. We gain, not lose by being servants.

Life is like a game of tennis. The player who serves well seldom loses. When we serve others we are released from that terrible, but seductive, drive to be self-serving that in the long-run we experience as depleting and unsatisfying.

The great writer Heinrich Heine, a Jew, was entertained by a wealthy Christian lady. Although he was known as a brilliant conversationalist, Heine was strangely quiet. Irritated, his hostess berated him: “Why are you so silent?” and he replied, “I am studying a problem which I cannot solve. I have been looking at these gold dishes, this fine linen, these splendid waiters, your great diamonds, and wondering what you Christians are going to do with the camel question.” (If you don’t recall the ‘the camel question,’ turn to Matt.19:23-25.)

So, brothers and sisters in Christ, what do we do with “the camel question?”

This farm news was published in the June 21, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.