Matthew 23:11 The greatest among you shall be your servant.

Being a servant or slave,[1] or in subjection to another is a common theme throughout the New Testament. Whether it is Jesus exhorting us to put others first (Matthew 20:26-27, Mark 9:35) or encouraging us to be content serving others without even a thank you (Luke 17:7-10), or Paul telling us to outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10), or that we should submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21), or John saying we should love one another (1 John 4:11-12), we can’t get around it. We are called to be first a servant to others – which doesn’t sound fun! What originally came to my mind was Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Which is more like the old phrase, 'grin and bear it'. What also came to mind was a quote from alpinist, Mark Twight, “It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun!” Needless to say, where is the joy in serving?

  It wasn’t until I read the book, The Dangerous Duty of Delight, by John Piper that the light bulb went on for me. The book discusses 'Christian Hedonism', which he defines as: “The pursuit of pleasure is an essential motive for every good deed. If you aim to abandon the pursuit of full and lasting pleasure, you cannot love or please people.”[2] This means that love does not seek its own pleasure, but the pleasure of others. We do this often with our children; we give to them to see their joy, which consequently brings us joy. Christian Hedonism expands this to all people. It is our duty to have joy in serving others for their joy. Piper says, “Selfishness seeks its own private happiness at the expense of others. Love seeks its happiness in the happiness of the beloved [and other in general].”[3] Now, I am not saying, I am this selfless all the time…far from it! However, when I keep this attitude on top of my mind, it not only makes service and sacrifices easier, but I actually am more likely to have joy in it.
   [1] Often the Greek word transliterated: doulos is used for servant, bond-servant, or slave depending on the translation.
   [2] Dangerous Duty of Delight, pg. 33.
   [3] Ibid. pg. 57.

by Michael Burner, Deacon

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