My grandpa once told me a joke that went something like this:
A man who was feeling rather ill walked up to another man who he knew to be a doctor.
“Excuse me,” the man said, “But I’ve had a headache, a sore throat, and a cough for a few days now, what should I do?”
“Well,” the doctor replied, “Drink lots of fluids and keep your body warm and you should be fine in a few days.”
“Thanks,” the man said and walked away.
Standing next to the doctor, however, was a lawyer. Once the man was out of earshot of the doctor, he turned to the lawyer and said, “You’re a lawyer, should I have charged that man for my advice as a doctor?”
“Certainly,” the lawyer replied.
“Thought so,” the doctor said.
“That’ll be $45,” the lawyer said.
This joke popped into my mind during this morning’s message. Danny was highlighting Matthew 7:12; “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets,” and talking about how, as followers of Christ, our mindsets ought not to be focused on ourselves, but on others. The doctor-lawyer joke came to mind because I believe it reveals something within each of us: selfish pride.
The doctor was so concerned about his knowledge and his expertise that he ignored or at least forgot about the knowledge and expertise of others (like lawyers) and how much he actually needed them. In many ways, I am like that doctor. I focus so much on what I know, what I’ve been through, or what I want in life that I forget or overlook what others know, what others have been through, and what others want in life.
Danny also highlighted a second passage from Matthew that reemphasized Christ’s teaching; “But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,’” (20:25-28).
This passage makes the contrast between the kingdom of man and the Kingdom of God quite clear: Our lives are not about our careers, our contributions to society, or about what we need or want; our lives are about serving and looking after others. If we were the doctor, we ought not to worry about whether or not we should charge someone who seeks advice. We should make sure they got what they needed, regardless of what our professions are. Yes, we ought to make a living to provide for our church and families, but not to the point where we forsake what Christ taught us. Even in the subject of income and money, none of it is ours to keep, but rather it is all a gift entrusted to us from God so that we might go out into the world and make His name, His love, His grace known.
But what does this look like in the real world? It’s something I was thinking about on the way home from church because we can hear all the good messages about sharing God’s love through actions and deeds that we want to, but if we fail to understand what that looks like in real life, then we would fail to carry out the teaching from Christ. And before I had time to think about what God’s love looks like in action, I walked into my kitchen and saw a pile of dishes.
I think we’ve all avoided doing the dishes at some point in our lives. I mean, I don’t even like having to wash my own dishes, let alone someone else’s dishes or my roommates’ dishes. It’s not that I feel entitled to be served; I just don’t like scrubbing burnt eggs off a frying pan or 4-day old milk out of the bottom of a glass. And yet, it needed to be done and I needed to start practicing God’s love.
Quite simply, carrying out God’s Law means carrying someone else’s burden, especially when we don’t want to. If Jesus wasn’t God (hypothetically speaking), I’m sure he would have changed his mind about taking upon the sins of humanity, especially after being threatened with crucifixion. But because He was (and is) God, He sacrificed Himself as the greatest act of service humanity will ever know of. As He taught the early disciples; He did not come to be served, but to serve.
As I took communion this morning, I prayed that I would take up Christ’s mindset. I prayed that I’d embrace His Kingdom’s culture of living selflessly because at the end of the day, I’d rather have favor in God’s eyes than in man’s eyes. I’d rather serve someone careless of whether or not they could pay.
In our world, “labor” has a separate definition than “love.” But in God’s world, they are intertwined. God bless.