Several years ago, I had made a rare decision: I went to a gym. I hadn’t been in a real gym before (most of my limited physical activity revolved around swimming and tennis), but I wanted to see what all the hype was about.
Upon entering the gym I wasn’t quite sure what to do, so I just found someone who looked like he actually knew what he was doing. When he was finished with the machine he asked me, “What weight level do you want?” Out of pure ignorance – and not wanting to look like a total wimp – I said, “The one you have is just fine.” I found myself shoulder pressing 200 lbs; I hadn’t lifted 200 lbs combined in the last year, let alone at once. For the entire hour I was there, I went from machine to machine lifting the weights without a clue as to what I was doing.
“Oh my Lord I can’t move my Arms, I can’t move my arms!” I shouted these words as I lay in bed, trying to move my numbed arms. Several previous attempts at sitting up without the use of my arms had failed miserably. I wound up flopping helplessly back down on the bed each time. Attempting to motivate my useless arms, I first yelled various encouragements and then moved on to direct threats.
When nothing still seemed to want to work properly, I knew there was no way I could get dressed for work. You can have strange thoughts wallowing armless on a bed; like for the first time since 8thgrade graduation I actually considered the merits and practicality of the clip-on tie. Indulging my pride led to my body’s incapacitation.
For me this scenario plays itself out both in the gym and in the church. Like a gym newbie, I am often tempted to skip the humble, lowly tasks and go straight for the glorious ones. All too often, I desire the esteem of my peers. I crave being seen as a leader so much so that my proverbial “servant” arms are numbed by my own ego. I am so consumed with leading that I neglect actual servanthood.
I even imagine myself in greater and greater positions of leadership. In my mind, I am preaching to immense crowds dispensing my wise exegeses from Scripture. Intermixed with this profoundness, I expertly interject hilarious yet poignant anecdotes that keep the crowd in stitches for weeks to come. I can hear the applause (a standing ovation no-less) and feel the palpable adoration from the masses in the filled-to-capacity stadium below. Given this gifted future, why must I come early to church to wipe down the nursery toys? My gifting is obviously in leadership not in manual labor.
Strangely, I do not have that same daydream about stacking chairs late Sunday morning while no one is around, sweat pouring down my nice shirt. I never feel the same gifting in driving the church van at 6am Sunday morning. As I roll into the parking lot, throngs of people do not await with rousing applause and adoration for my parking skills. Neither do they throw roses at my feet as I roll the crates off the van and into the church.
This idolatrous desire for adoration is why I have often used a gifting as an excuse not to serve. Take children’s ministry for example. Do they need me? Probably, but unless it’s a matter of life and death, or unless the pastor asks me personally, then forget it. Besides, my gifting is elsewhere; I wonder if they need a care group leader?
How ridiculous and selfish is this attitude of my mine! Would I say that I don’t have the gift of love so therefore I am exempt from showing any? No way. So can I consider any task on Sunday morning beneath me and my supposed gifting? Absolutely not – in fact, quite the opposite is true.
Christian service is predicated on need and availability, not primarily on gifting. Serving should be characterized by a humble and willing spirit. Yet this does not mean that any service role is beneath another. None of our service remotely compares with Christ’s service to us on the Cross. This should produce humility in all who serve and inflame our passion for helping others. Yet in light of Christ’s amazing work for us, every task (no matter how monotonous or difficult) that is done as a response to the Gospel, God considers noble. In Biblical servanthood, we are to be humble servants who perform noble tasks.