Everyone in Everything

…just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. (1 Corinthians 10:33 ESV)

Taking Scripture out of context is dangerous. If you read 10:33 without reading 10:31, you will become the quintessential chameleon–blending in everywhere you go, pleasing everyone you know, becoming whoever you’re with. So here goes verse 31:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV)

If God’s glory is your highest aim, pleasing others can be your second aim. You will please God and others. If God’s glory is your highest goal, then pleasing others can be your second goal and you won’t become a “people pleaser.” For Paul it is a question of motive. Why does he please everyone in everything?

“…that they may be saved.” 

Paul glorifies God and pleases others hoping that it will result in the salvation of others. This is why a believing wife will respect her unbelieving husband–not seeking her own advantage–but hoping that he may be saved. This is the reason the father of a wayward child will appear to capitulate–not seeking his own advantage—but wishing that his son may be saved. This is why a friend will bend over backward to help an unbelieving friend–not seeking her own advantage–but praying that her friend will be saved.

Who is your everyone? What is the everything you can do so that he or she may be saved?

To Serve or To Be Served

Yesterday Wendy and I took Hannah to Greenville Spartanburg Airport. We sent her off on a one-month trek to Ecuador where she will hang with missionaries, share the Gospel, canoe the Amazon and hike an icy mountain. You can imagine the mixed emotions we had as we left her in the hands of her Intercultural Studies professor and a dozen other students.

When we left we went to a nearby restaurant and sat down to eat. We were a bit tired and emotionally drained. When we walked into the restaurant it never occurred to us to serve. We went there to be served. J. B., our waiter, brought us a menu, asked us what we wanted to drink, brought our ice waters (with lemon of course!) and took our order. He brought our food to us, refilled our waters and graciously waited on us. It never occurred to us that we should serve–we walked in there to be served.

When J. B. walked into that restaurant yesterday, it never occurred to him that he would be served. He came to serve. His sole purpose for coming to work yesterday was to serve.

Jesus can identify with J. B.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45 ESV)

Jesus did not walk on planet earth to be served. It never occurred to him to sit down at the table and wait on someone to take his order. No! He entered planet earth to serve. He sat down at the well with the Samaritan woman. He fed thousands with a few loaves and fish. He cried over Lazarus’s death.  He donned a towel and washed the disciples’ feet. He hung humiliated on a wooden cross. He gave his life a ransom for many.

How will you walk into your day today? As a server or a customer?

Son of God, Son of Man

son of manIn the Gospels Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man 85 times. Why would the Son of God’s favorite designation for himself be Son of Man? In his conversation with the disciples in Mark 10 he gives us some insight:

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But 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 slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45 ESV)

The simple meaning of Son of Man is that Jesus was human. He was born of a woman like other men. He grew up like other children. He got hungry and thirsty. He experienced loneliness and exhilaration. He was the Son of Man.

Yet he was the Son of God. As the Son of God he was unlike any other human being. He was born of woman, conceived by the Spirit. He grew up like other children yet unlike other children. Luke tells the story:

After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:46-49 ESV)

As the Son of God he longed to be in His Father’s house.

Why would the Son of God’s favorite title for himself be, not the Son of God, but the Son of Man? Because he came, not to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many. God, by his very nature, must be served. No one is higher than Him, no one more deserving of praise, no one more deserving of glory. He must be served.

In Jesus the served became the servant, the glorified became crucified, the holy was humiliated. At the very heart of Christianity is selfless service because we worship the Son of God who was the Son of Man.

Ordinary Obedience

Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you? Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down, and he will tell you what to do.” And she replied, “All that you say I will do.” (Ruth 3:1-5 ESV)

Most books on following God are written about the crossroads in life–the major decisions we make that determine the direction of our lives. Few books deal with everyday decisions–ordinary responsibilities that accumulate to result in extraordinary outcomes. Yet almost always it is the accumulation of ordinary obedient acts that results in the moments of “extraordinary” glory. We see that in Ruth’s story.

Naomi’s instructions to her appear to be trite: bathe, put on perfume and put on your coat. This is what we tell our 7-year-olds. “Take a bath!” “Use soap!” “Don’t go out in the cold without your coat!” Why such apparently unnecessary details? Who cares about cleanings and coats? Why make such a big deal about perfume? They are an example of ordinary obedience. Ruth isn’t the only one who exercised ordinary obedience. Joseph did too.

Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit. And when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh. (Genesis 41:14 ESV)

I find it surprising that the same Scripture that unfolds the glorious truths of the salvation of sinners also recounts Ruth bathing and Joseph shaving! Joseph had supernatural wisdom to interpret dreams–and he still shaved. Ruth exhibited unbelievable fidelity to Naomi–and she still bathed. Joseph and Ruth practiced ordinary obedience.

For the stay at home mom, changing another diaper seems trite. The school teacher grades yet another paper and wonders if they are really getting it. The manager walks out of his office after a day of paperwork and asks: did I do anything today that made a difference? How can you know?

Here’s the simple test:

…rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. (Ephesians 6:7-8 ESV)

Here Paul addressed bondservants and freedmen and he instructed both to do what they do “as to the Lord.”

Ordinary obedience with an “as to the Lord” attitude gets God’s attention.