Principles of Service
A teacher from another group with a Mormon background read an article I wrote called Eternal Progression and posted some disagreements with me.
One odd teaching he presented was a strange interpretation of this teaching: “And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Matt 20:27-28
He states that a good way to understand the next world is to compare the heavenly world to a luxury motel. You would think that those enjoying themselves getting a tan, swimming, visiting the spa and consuming luxury food and drink would be the ones who were closest to God here and thus getting a reward in the hereafter. But he says no. The highest in the kingdom of God are the motel staff. These are they who are laboriously preparing and serving food and drink, clean the toilets, change the beds, vacuum the carpets etc.
So, could this be what we are in for if we are true followers of Christ? Will we be doing menial jobs serving those who are too lazy to take care of their own needs for eternity?
Does he have a point? After all, Jesus did say “whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.”
Is this what he meant? If not, then what was the true meaning?
First, let us look at a couple other scriptures that may shed some further light “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” Matt 23:11-12
Here the scripture affirms that the great among us will serve us, but the humble servant will be exalted. Exaltation doesn’t quite fit the image of being a cleaning lady in a motel for eternity.
“But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. And he (Jesus) sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, THE SAME SHALL BE last of all, and SERVANT OF ALL.” Mark 9:34-35
This can be interpreted two ways, but either one is correct.
The first is that if one has a desire to be first, or a great one, then he should act as if he were the last and be a servant.
The problem with this interpretation is that it is the strong ego that wants to be first, above his fellow men and women.
It is true, however, according to the teachings of Jesus, that assuming the role of a servant is the key to the highest attainment.
The second interpretation is that one who is strong in the ego and desires to be first is headed the wrong direction and will wind up last, no higher than a lowly servant.
The otherworldly reward for those who feed the ego and desire to be first is that they “shall be last of all, and servant of all.”
In this context the consignment to being a servant is reserved for those who are not spiritual or close to Christ. This interpretation may seem to be in opposition to the previous teachings on service until one understands the principles of service.
Finally, here is the reward to be given to those who are good stewards and servants here on earth:
“His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” Matt 25:23
Being a member of a motel staff is not exactly comparable to being a “ruler over many things.” Managing a motel chain could fit the bill but not being a member of the lowly staff.
So, what is the true meaning we are to take from the idea that the greatest among us is to be the greatest servant? If the greatest is not to serve by scrubbing floors, then what kind of service is the scripture talking about?
To understand the Law of Service we must understand the Law of Economy, concerning which we talked of earlier. To be an effective servant one must serve to the fullest extent of his abilities and talent. Let me give several examples.
If one is a tailor, it would not be economical for him to serve others by making shoes. If acting is all one knows it would not be efficient for the person to serve through engineering. A comedian can best serve by making others laugh rather than preaching about the passion of the Christ.
We thereby arrive at the First Principle of Service which is: The true servant makes the fullest possible use of his talents and ability. To not do so is a “sin” or a “missing of the mark.”
To make full use of one’s abilities leads to joy. It is frustrating to serve ineffectively, but fulfilling to give the best one has to offer.
The Second Principle of Service revolves around power and is worded thus:
The true servant serves in proportion to the power he has to serve. He allows those with lesser power to serve according to their abilities and seeks to labor where the vacuum appears.
The greatest example of this was Christ himself who had unlimited power to serve. He let Mary, Martha and others be the motel staff and clean house, cook meals etc. because this was within their power and willingness to do. He saw the vacuum in the need for teachings and healing, a job he had power to do that others did not. Therefore, he filled the vacuum with service when he had power to serve where no one else was doing the job.
Would Christ have been happy serving as a cook for his whole life when people were crying out for love and light? No. Not when cooking was way below his threshold of power to serve. One must serve according to his power to serve to obtain joy and that power must be eternally increasing to avoid stagnation.
A publishing house employs writers, editors, managers, printers, binders and maintenance people for their building.
The maintenance guy is happy keeping the building in shape. He doesn’t have clue about writing, publishing or printing, so he is content where he is and performs an essential service.
The printer could do maintenance work, but he learned the skill of printing and enjoys it much more. He also feels he is accomplishing more with this skill than he could by doing maintenance.
One of the writers has done both maintenance and printing in his past but has developed skill as a writer and feels that because of the wide influence of his writings that he serves with much more power than he did as a printer or maintenance. He is thrilled to serve by writing and it would be hell for him to give this up and go back to printing or maintenance.
The manager, on the other hand, used to be a writer and feels that he can influence and promote many writers and serve more than any one writer could. He is happy with his power to serve and does not desire to do any other job for the company.
These two principles of service illustrate well the reward for the faithful which Jesus expressed as “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”
When one is made a “ruler over many things,” as was the manager, who was over many writers, his power to serve is increased.
This understanding brings us to the Third Principle of Service:
As the power to serve is increased and acted upon, joy and fulfillment are increased. Consciousness is also expanded as the servant contemplates the results of his works and those whom he has assisted.
“And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations.” Rev 2:26
He who increases his power to serve will be given more power to serve even “power over the nations” for the few who make the best of the power God gives them.
Does this teaching mean that if one has great power to serve that he will never do some of the more basic and menial jobs in life?
He who thinks this did not absorb the second principle of service. Let me repeat:
“The true servant serves in proportion to the power he has to serve. He allows those with lesser power to serve according to their abilities and seeks to labor where the vacuum appears.”
If the vacuum is something difficult, that only he can do, then he will labor at this. But if the vacuum is in the area of cooking or cleaning floors he will also do this. He serves the highest he knows where the vacuum appears and the need is apparent.
By contrast, the false servant wants a job where he will have money, power and glory whether there is a need for him or not. The need does not matter, only the feeding of the ego does.
Menial jobs are beneath the false servant. He expects others to always perform these for him and feels he is above such tasks.
It is indeed true that the greatest among us is the greatest servant, but one is a great servant because he has developed power and ability to serve and assist many more people than the slothful servant.
“For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.” D&C 58:26
“He that is slothful shall not be counted worthy to stand, and he that learns not his duty and shows himself not approved shall not be counted worthy to stand.” D&C 107:100
Arrogance is a kingdom without a crown. American Proverb
May 12, 2005
Copyright by J J Dewey
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