Yesterday morning I showed my congregation this verse: As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another… (1 Peter 4:10, KJV). I then asked them, “What do you think of when you see the word minister in this verse?” The first answer given was “pastor.” Others said things like “encourager” and “helper.”
Then I shared that the Greek word for minister is the word from which we get deacon. I then asked them what deacon made them think of. They answered “administrator” and “leader.”
But the closest definition to what we have today for that Greek word is waiter or waitress. The NIV tries to capture this thought when it translates the same verse: Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others….
Serving is not something that comes naturally to most people, as typically we prefer to be served.
In biblical times, a disciple was always very devoted to his rabbi. The disciple would serve almost in the role of a servant to his rabbi. Almost. Even the rabbis didn’t requite their disciples to remove their sandals, because it was considered so menial and demeaning to the disciple. So foot washing was reserved for the lowliest of servants.
Then along comes Jesus who knows that God has placed all authority under Him (John 13:3), who uses His authority to take on the lowest of lowliest positions: a foot-washer. As He finishes washing, He says, “Now that you’ve seen Me do this, you need to do the same thing: Be the humblest of servants.”
In our culture, most people don’t need to have their feet washed when they come into your home or a restaurant, like they did in first century Israel. It is not the act that is important, but the attitude. Jesus stooped to wash His disciples feet. He made Himself lower than anyone else in the room. Jesus showed us that there was nothing beneath Him.
I’ve heard this before: “How do you know you have a servant’s attitude? When you don’t mind that someone treats you like a servant.”
But I think a better question might be: “Do I think anything (or anyone) is beneath me?” If I do, my attitude is not Christ-like (Philippians 2:5-7), nor is it Christ-blessable (John 13:17).
Jesus calls us to be servants—to be waiters and waitresses—to others. This shows the love of Jesus like nothing else can.