The Fruits of Servanthood 2 — A Righteous Life
The effects of sin in our lives are always bad and often disastrous. I didn’t believe that when I was young. I was taught it but I hadn’t seen enough evidence yet to buy in to it. I had friends and relatives who were doing things that I knew were supposed to be wrong, but it seemed that they were getting by with it. I couldn’t yet see the consequences. That phase didn’t last too long. Those my age started getting married without God’s principles as a guide. Their lives started unraveling in time, and when their children reached adulthood, the picture came into sharper focus. Underneath the smiles and Facebook stories, the rigid rod of reality told the true tale. The last line of Fantine’s song, “I Dreamed a Dream,” in the famous musical, “Les Miserables,” tells the tale of many whose lives are not centered on God. “Life has killed the dream I dreamed.” That is the present condition of many in our society, leading to frustration and anger which can stay pent-up for only so long. It is being acted upon in many, many horrific ways as I write these words. And without Christ in lives, it will get worse.
Our nation provides a good example of how it gets worse. I remember a conversation with an older friend in Boston years ago who had grown up there. He recalled being in elementary school when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred. He said that once they got the news, their teacher led the whole class in Bible reading and prayer for the rest of the school day. I remember reading a historical novel about the early settlement of the East Coast of the US, and in very challenging times, it wasn’t unusual for the mayor of Boston to call for a fast of even several days to cry out to God for help meeting those challenges. Now we have drifted so far away from the Bible as an accepted standard that we shouldn’t be surprised at the consequences of unrighteousness permeating our society. The kingdom of self and self-serving has taken the place of biblical servanthood demonstrated and called for by Jesus.
If sin is the disease, servanthood is the cure. Those focused on serving are already immersed in self-denial. Sin is not nearly the temptation that it is to people who are mainly focused on self or even on merely avoiding sin, and therein lies the failure of the religion of my youth. It was all about avoiding sin, not serving others in the name of Christ. Most who call themselves Christians live about the same as their neighbors, except they avoid outward sins. They are just about as self-centered and materialistic as everyone else. Self-denial is thus defined very narrowly indeed. It is about what not to do rather than being focused on what Jesus did and still would do—and wants to do in and through you. Do you see the difference?
Every follower of Jesus has the responsibility of serving. It is not a burden but a blessing, an opportunity, a privilege. Some followers of his also have the special gift of serving (Romans 12:7). Those with the gift serve more gracefully and naturally than the rest of us, and in doing so they provide an example to help the rest of us grow in that area. My wife, Theresa, has this gift in abundance. She lives to serve. She can’t help serving. She is compelled. It doesn’t matter who we are with or where we are, her gift will come out. It is pretty amazing to watch and sometimes a bit embarrassing for me to watch. She will take over situations involving total strangers as she tries to serve them. In a restaurant during pre-Covid days, she would be arranging chairs and tables and holding babies and doing whatever she thought would help them have the best time. They seemed to sense her gift and were quite relaxed about it all, appearing to view her as a part of their family on a temporary basis. As I said, it’s amazing to watch.
Recently, as we began recording the first episodes of this podcast series, I talked to Theresa about how I wanted things to function. I explained that this wasn’t us entertaining fellow disciples or focusing on hospitality. It was business and we had to stay both quiet and focused. So, let’s just put bottled water in the refrigerator and inform them to serve themselves as needed. She listened very attentively and seemed like she understood exactly what I was saying and why, and was agreeing to follow the guidelines I mentioned. But as Rick and I were setting up all of the equipment prior to the arrival of the guests who were to be in the podcast, I glanced over at our dining room table. Of course there were bottles of water there, along with pumpkin bread, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and a huge bowl of fruit salad and the sauce to top it with. In earlier years, that might have led to an argument, but I didn’t say anything negative to her. She can’t help it. She has the gift of service. Servanthood should have been her middle name!
Theresa is, not surprisingly, one of the most spiritual people I know. When we are focused on serving others, we are not focused on self and thus sin’s temptations have much less effect on us. Sometimes when we are praying together and confess our sins, I find myself wishing that all I had to confess was what she did. I have “big boy” sins; she has “little girl” sins—all because she is a far better servant than I am. As I was thinking about this servanthood concept recently, it occurred to me that I should ask her a question that I’m not sure I have asked her directly before.
I understand the challenges of male lust, which I have shared about honestly in describing my own battles, something that any honest man will admit is a problem. But I wondered what the challenge of that sin might look like for her. The results of a fairly in-depth discussion were about as expected. She just doesn’t struggle with it, and I believe her because I know her. Servants focus on the needs of others, not the bodies of others. Jesus was around women all of the time, women who adored him, and yet he never lusted once. Regarding my wife, we are talking about a woman who loves the sexual part of our marriage. Sex has been a big part of our marriage but her having lust for other men has not. The ramifications of being a servant are wide and deep. Spiritual greatness and servanthood are inseparably connected and the more you think about it, the more you understand why.