Character Trait No. 15
Definition: Controlling my privileges and preferences in order not to offend those God has called me to serve (putting their wishes or opinions before mine).
“...just as I please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved.” I Cor. 10:33
Jesus once told a story of a slave serving supper to his master after working all day in the fields (Luk. 17:7-10). We are to view ourselves a “unprofitable slaves” when we’ve only done the things that are commanded. Such deference to authority is often viewed negatively as bootlicking, graven subservience. There are parasitic sycophants trailing behind every powerful person, like a heavy weight champion boxer’s entourage; but true deference is done for God’s sake and propriety’s sake. Jesus also said that the greatest in the kingdom would be a servant. “...and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve...”
(Matt. 20:27,28) He led by His great example, “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philip. 2:6-8)
All great men and women know how to serve others well. For example, an elder has to be hospitable. This is akin to being a good guesthouse host or innkeeper or hotel manager. Hospitality is warm and loving service offered without any strings attached. Jesus washed His disciples’ feet to teach them the importance of serving. Many view only the women’s role as best suited for such lowly service. Not so! Please note, men, the deference of men, the elders, for instance. Nehemiah was a cupbearer for King Artaxerxes. Joseph was a slave and prisoner, serving with great deference in both lowly subservient positions. Be still, O prideful soul, be still! Service is honorable, even beautiful, for any great man.
In a real sense, Christians are Melchizedechian priest-kings with a divine nature like Christ’s own. We were created to be awesome judge-rulers of much greater magnitude than the Old Testament judges, prophets or kings like Samson, Samuel or Saul. Yet our path to true greatness still lies in how well we can serve. Paul said, “But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice...”(Philip. 2:17) He also wrote, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. And to the Jews I became as a Jew...To the weak I became weak...I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.” (I Cor. 9:19-22) Paul viewed himself as deferring to everyone – the servant of all men! Paul also mentions two particular rights or privileges that he gave up in deference to all men - the right to marry and the right to be paid for his preaching.
Let us likewise learn to control our own desires and privileges when necessary, no matter how dear they are to us, to keep from offending those we wish to disciple.
- Remember that the first shall be last and the last shall be first.
- It’s more blessed to give than to receive.
- Seek the lowest seat or least amount at a party to avoid embarrassment and allow the host to exalt you.
- Carefully consider other people’s interests as more important than your own.
- Remember the Good Samaritan (changed his schedule).
- Give way to traffic, don’t push ahead.
- Ladies first.
- Don’t start sentences with “But I”.
- “Controlling” your privileges and preferences doesn’t mean you never get what you want. If you have to be rude, push or force, then remember the end doesn’t justify the means.
- Once a brother is offended, his is like a fortified city. It takes less effort to refrain from offending than to win back an offended brother. Be careful!