Wednesday Word: Self-Giving Service

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus – Philippians 2:3-5

These verses were part of the assigned reading from two weeks ago. A parishioner asked me about this, saying they had trouble seeing others as “better than” themselves; equal, yes, but not necessarily better than.

One of the ways to look at this is to, as Paul said, “let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.”

In various places Jesus talks about himself coming to serve others, not to be served by them. When two disciples try to secure their place of honor, Jesus pointed out that whoever wants to be great must serve others. When he says, “The last shall be first,” he's reiterating this position of servanthood. And on the evening of his betrayal and arrest, one of the last things the eternal, omnipotent, God-incarnate did was to humble himself and wash the feet of his twelve disciples, including the feet of the one who would betray him to the authorities.

It may be difficult to see others as better than yourself, and that's understandable. But if that feels problematic, try having the same mind that was in Christ – and that is to see yourself as a servant. As it so happens, this idea of servanthood is built into our own mission statement: Worship, Welcome, Serve, and Encourage. How, especially now in this pandemic, can we position ourselves to serve others? This probably means more than giving away food and/or clothing, although those things certainly help. But how can we look to serve others in ways that have long-term effects?

Part of being able to do that, I think, is to be willing to humble ourselves in such a way that we see ourselves as servants, not necessarily as the ones with all the answers. By humbling ourselves, by emptying ourselves as Christ emptied himself, we can be in a position to both take in the other as well as give ourselves to the other. As Ilia Delio said in, The Unbearable Wholeness of Being, “A self that is 'full of itself' can neither receive the other nor make genuine movement toward the other” (p. 134).

Serving others requires that we humble and empty ourselves in order to build others up. Serving others can be difficult when we are asked to make sacrifices or give up things to which we've grown accustomed to having.

When we are asked to empty ourselves, let us not focus on what we are losing, but instead let us focus on what the served and server are gaining.


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