For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many”. Mark 10:44
Last Sunday, we are reminded to guard against the worldly mentality of “I, me and myself” and instead, to pursue self-sacrificing service. Greatness to the world, is to seek positions to rule over others for self-gain. In contrast, greatness in Jesus’ teaching is to seek positions to serve for the benefits of others. Deep within us, we all want to be served. We enjoy being served and sometimes we feel we have the right to expect to be served, even by our government leaders and wherever we are, be it at home, in church, in Singapore or overseas.
The request by James and John to sit on Jesus’ right and left from Mark 10 could perhaps be motivated by a sense of rights and entitlement. After all, they had left everything to follow Jesus for coming to three years. The indignation of the other 10 disciples towards them was not as noble as some of us might have thought. Mark 8:34 informed that they had earlier argued about who was the greatest among them. So they were probably unhappy that the other two had beaten them to ask the Lord for places of honor. They too have their wants and rights.
“Greatness in Smallness” is not necessary about how small or humbling the task is than it is about our attitudes and motivations. For even the smallest and humblest task can be a self-serving, ego-boosting endeavour. Our “humble” services can run the danger of being self-serving in the following ways:
a. When we serve to ease our sense of guilt.
Such services usually lead to us choosing an area of service that is usually short and not too demanding. It is service that we will not be prepared to go the 2nd mile. It is service that we feel most relieved when the task is done.
b. When we serve out of our convenience or leftover time.
We are alright to serve as long as it does not interrupt or interfere with our personal or family programmes. I found this to be true myself. Since stopping work some time back to have more time to serve (so that’s what I told myself), I found myself, ironically now a retiree, being more protective of my personal and family time than when I was working before. Serving is therefore very much a heart than a time issue. If you have the heart, you will find the time for service but not the other way.
c. When we serve in our areas of strengths and are unwilling to consider other areas of needs.
Here, I am not trying to negate the biblical teaching that the Lord gives gifts to individuals to serve His church or that we should not be serving the church with our talents and abilities. As a worship leader, I often had to guard myself against the temptation of self-gratification and self-elevation because singing is my love and what I am gifted in (I hope I am right here). We know we can do well in our areas of strengths and that can be our unconscious motivation. How prepared we are to consider serving other areas of need outside our strengths may reveal our understanding of and true motivation in service.
d. When we serve only when things are done our way.
There would always be differences when two or more heads come together. How a leader or members handle differences is instructive. How open are we to the views of others? And how prepared are we to accommodate and change when a decision or consensus is reached?
e. When we expect appreciation in our service.
It is perplexing that when one is commended, the response would usually be “don’t mention” or “it’s for the Lord”. But that same person may leave the church or ministry at another time because he feels he is unappreciated for his service. “It’s only human to expect appreciation”, most people would say. But ask ourselves, why is it so?
Our Lord Jesus serves not for any of the above reasons but simply because it is God’s will for him to do so. Serving is His mission in life and He serves wholeheartedly in giving His life as a ransom for many. We must therefore in our serving, take our eyes away from ourselves and focus on what God want us to do and on the people we seek to serve.
Elder David, Wing Kee and myself have just returned from the Cambodia mission trip last week and we thank you for your prayers. I have enjoyed myself and am already looking forward to the next one. But I am must be careful that I am not serving myself, my needs or my aspirations. One of my sons had actually asked me if I was doing this to meet my own needs through my involvement in Cambodia. I must not do it just because I feel obligated to Elder David or to the students in Cambodia or that I enjoyed it. I must do it because I believe this is what God wants me to do and that it is for the good of those students. There are many opportunities in our homes, church and community for us to serve others.
There are many area of needs in Living Praise for us to serve one another and to do the work of the gospel. The Lord came not to be served but to serve. Would we be willing to serve?
So let us learn how to serve
And in our lives enthrone Him
Each other’s need to prefer
For it is Christ we’re serving