“You will be the servant and I will be the master,” my oldest daughter declared to my youngest daughter as they played together the day before Christmas. As I watched their harmless play-acting those words continued to replay in my mind. Isn’t it fascinating that when given the choice, even an early age, we are inclined to take the position of power and entitlement?
We cannot pretend that this is simple child’s play. Even a casual observation of the world in which we live would indicate very quickly that our natural way is to scratch and claw to be in places of power. This is evident at the highest levels of international politics and global corporate structure but also quite visible within our very families, places of employment, and other community and civic organizations.
Our natural way fights to get on top even if it is to the detriment of another. The position of master means power, authority, and security while the position of servant means weakness, servility, and insecurity. Masters use their power to accumulate, amass, and store away wealth to guarantee their survival while servants use what they have to get by from day to day without any material guarantee for the future.
It may be worthwhile to consider the place in which we find ourselves. Are we those who work to be in positions of power and authority over others in our daily lives? Are we those who work to accumulate and store away our wealth for ourselves in order to guarantee our future security? Or, are we those who work to serve everyone in our weakness? Are we those who use what we have to get by from day to day and then have faith that God will provide what we need as we are selfless with what we have?
This may be hard for us to grasp but the way of Christ is always contrary to our natural way. While the way of nature works toward being powerful…the way of Christ works towards being powerless. While the way of nature works toward controlling people and situations…the way of Christ works toward serving people despite the situation. While the way of nature works toward insuring future material prosperity…the way of Christ works toward sharing what we have presently and trusting the provision of God in the future.
According to our natural way, we may have very well scorned the poor widow written about in the Gospels who gave away the last two coins in her name for making an “unwise” financial decision and then celebrated the rich for giving their large financial offering. Our natural way would have viewed the poor widow as short-sighted and foolish for giving away everything she had, yet we would have viewed the rich as wise for only giving away a small percentage of their finances while saving the larger percentage for themselves. However it is the poor widow, not the rich, who Jesus praises for giving all she had. This ought to be very insightful for we in the Church.
The Kingdom that Jesus announced and initiated and the Kingdom he presently invites us into, turns the tables of the world upside-down calling us to follow the example, not of the rich and powerful, but of the poor and humble widow.
You will be praised when you place yourself below others in service.
You will be praised when your demeanor is that of meekness and humility.
You will be praised when you lay yourself down for the sake of others.
And you will be praised when you give all you have so that others may have what they need to get by.
The call of Christ to our churches is to put aside the natural way and to take on the way of the Servant. The call of Christ to our churches is to become like and to be viewed as the poor widow, rather than the wealthy elite, by those in our community. The call of Christ to our churches is to begin spending less on ourselves and our own interests, and to instead begin giving all we have (financially and relationally) year-round for the extension of the Kingdom of God in our community, one person and one family at a time.
Church leaders…are we willing to not just ask our individual congregants to become like the poor widow, but for our churches as a whole to become like the poor widow as well? If we do not believe it is the government’s responsibility to care for and serve people…then whose responsibility is it? It is the church’s responsibility. But we must be willing to give everything away rather than to hold on to all of it for our own benefit or security.
If there is to be any hope in this world of a better way of living that transcends the natural ways and workings of this world, it must be embodied and lived out through a Church that has taken on the highest ways of Christ.