The life of a Christian among other human beings can be summed up in this: “love your neighbor”. Many would understand this (rightly, I think, if properly defined) to be a call to “serve your neighbor” – i.e. to help him in his needs. This is a good and noble thing.
There is a problem, however, that I believe strikes every Christian at some point in their process of sanctification – some much more than others. It is when you begin to think of neighbors as “all those people out there” and fail to recognize that YOU are also a neighbor.
We’ve all seen it happen, that person who is always tending to other people’s needs, never (ever!) allowing someone else to look after them for a change. We might call this person a “servaholic”, and I don’t consider it any great distinction that I myself have fallen into this trap a time or two. The servaholic’s mind works like this:
- It recognizes that Christians are to serve our neighbors
- However, it sees any service rendered unto itself by another as an encumbrance to that other person
- And, after all, isn’t encumbering people unloving? Far better to just suck it up and get on with serving others than to be a burden
The servaholic decides to downplay their own needs, making them out to be “not that important”, in the name of not creating an obligation for someone else to help them (“wouldn’t want to impose – that would be unloving…”). We are injured people lying on the side of the road who call out to the would-be good Samaritans in our lives, “Hey, don’t worry about me, bro – I’m actually pretty comfortable like this! Say, though, your shoes look like they need a shining… I’ll just take care of that for you while I’m down here.”
But the mistake of the servaholic is that being served oneself is actually a vocation of its own. That is to say, servers need people to serve. If a person does not allow themselves to be served from time to time, they are actually robbing someone else of the honor of being a servant (Simon Peter trying to deny this to Christ at the last supper being a prime example).
Relying on others, allowing them to serve you – not in return for any service rendered, but as a good and proper sacrifice to the Lord – is a way of blessing them in its own right. Or would you deny your neighbor his reward in heaven by refusing to be hungry or thirsty? Or by refusing to be clothed, or visited when sick or in prison? (Matthew 25:34-40)
What I am saying is this:
It is worth remembering that in being served we are also servants. Even if our particular service at that moment is in being the person that Christ has called someone else to love and serve.