Monday, November 3, 2008

I’m Better Than That! There is No Way I Would Stoop So Low! / Street Level Devotions

Luke 9: 46-48
Jesus disciples were arguing about which one of them was the greatest. Jesus knew what they were thinking, and he had a child stand there beside him. Then he said to his disciples, “When you welcome even a child because of me, you welcome me. And when you welcome me, you welcome the one who sent me. Whichever one of you is the most humble is the greatest.”

I have to be honest, titles don’t impress me, in fact, I don’t think titles impress most people who are honest with themselves. Sure they may impress some, but normally those people seem so stuck up they walk around with their nose up in the air and live life with few friends. Usually these people are so full of pride they aren’t aware of the snickers that come from those that observe them from a distance.

Don’t get me wrong, respect is an appropriate thing. I believe in calling people “Sir,” or “Mamm,” I believe in respect for others, especially those in positions of authority. That is just a decent thing to do, but I have even more respect for those who see themselves as equals, not superior. I think that is where most people are at. It is one of the things that have gotten skewed in society, we seem to place a higher level of importance on people than they often deserve.

What ends up happening is we become so filled with pride we forget that when compared to the person of Jesus, we don’t measure up. Over the years I have been honored to serve as an Executive Director of various organizations. I feel a little proud that I obtained a certain measure of success in certain fields, despite my coming from the streets and homelessness. I have never forgotten my roots. I have done crazy things like not wanting an office, or if having an office making sure there wasn’t a door on it. I wanted people to always feel welcome without ever fearing that I thought I was better than them. I never had my staff do anything I wasn’t willing to do myself. I always made it clear to my staff that they were there to serve the people around us.

I was sharing with a friend the other night about my managing an organization where we had a commercial kitchen to operate. In that kitchen we had what many commercial kitchens have, a grease trap which had to be cleaned on a regular basis. I don’t know what you know about grease traps but I will state, they are nasty, stinky, filthy disgusting things. I had a staff person once who refused to clean the grease trap. She seemed to think that because she had a college degree it was beneath her to clean it. Her particular job entailed working alongside persons with severe mental illnesses, instilling hope, and focusing on their strengths and abilities while at the same time helping rediscover their job skills. This person was clear though, while she was a “mental health professional,” her job description did not entail cleaning a grease trap.

I called her into the kitchen one morning and told her, “If you don’t mind, I want you to come here so I can show you something.” She came into the kitchen and while there I proceeded to get on my hands and knees, take off the top of the grease trap, took a large metal spoon, started skimming off the grease, and cleaning the trap. She stood there watching as I cleaned the trap. I detailed the specifics of what I was doing, while I was doing it, and in the process letting her know that when helping people do things, we had to be careful as it could instill an attitude of being less than if we were telling them to do something we were unwilling to do ourselves.

Upon completion of showing her how to clean the grease trap, she said something to me like, “You don’t really expect me to do that do you? I mean I didn’t get my college degree to clean things like that!”

I asked her, “Do you know what my job description is?”

“Yes,” She replied in a serious but somewhat questioning tone. “But what does that have to do with anything?”

“Well,” I stated in a serious tone while looking her in the eyes, “I am the executive director of this agency; I sign your pay checks. I just finished cleaning this grease trap because I value the importance of serving others, and the value of never asking someone to do something that you aren’t willing to do yourself.” I then stood up, and said emphatically, “If I as the executive director of this agency am willing to stoop so low as to do a dirty, filthy job of this nature, I expect my staff to be willing to do the same thing.” Then in a firm but straight forward way I stated, “For staff that think they are beyond the executive director of the agency, that think they are so good that they don’t have to do something he is willing to do, then they need to leave the employment of this agency. If however they decide they should stay with this agency, they will either do what is expected in the area of service, or I will be forced to terminate their employment.” Unfortunately, that particular employee didn’t make it with the agency. I suspect she is working some place now behind a desk, with her diplomas up, somehow thinking she may be too good to stoop so low as to do a dirty job and serve someone.

We often find ourselves thinking we are better than someone else, thinking that God has made provisions for us. Yet Jesus made his perspective clear, we are expected to welcome the lowest of the low, to love the least of these, and to serve even small children. Our status when it comes to following Jesus isn’t based on a piece of paper, or a level of education, it is based on a willingness to love and serve, we are if you will, called to take up the towel that Jesus illustrated when he was willing to take on the role of a servant and wash the feet of not only his disciples, but also the one who would betray him to be crucified.

Each of us, as we go through life must realize, that Jesus, the son of God, and even God himself, put himself in a position to serve others. When we think of ourselves as being too good to serve, we must reconsider this thing we call ourselves, followers of Jesus. Jesus made it clear; we show our love to him, by showing love to others. There is no higher calling than to serve others, Jesus lived that example, and it is an example we should follow.

Thought for the day: As you go through the day, look for a way you can show your love to another by serving them. Let them know that they are important, by your willingness to serve. When you do this, your life message will have a far greater impact on those you come into contact with.

The following video is of one who understood the importance of serving others. We sometimes make excuses as if we didn't already know we aren't Jesus. We have examples though of those who would be willing to serve. To see the video, just click on it, if it don't appear, just click on the following link:

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