Do You want the Position or the Towel?

Martin Luther King Jr. once said,

Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.

This past Sunday I had to make the dreaded and sad announcement that we have ministries within the church that are in desperate need of volunteers in order to remain operational. Due to that… I am dedicating the next 3 weeks of blogging to tackle the subject of service within the local congregation.

There is a saying that says in every church 10% of the people do 90% of the work. I believe that is the case most of the time.

I haven’t fooled myself for a second in thinking that we are the only church around with this issue. In fact, I believe that the church as a whole is in this boat together. We have many routes for Christian servanthood, but very few people willing to take those routes. The idea of serving others has been put off in our minds as something that other people are called to do.

Think about it… we have all heard an announcement asking for volunteers at some point in our lives. If you are like me you immediately put it off thinking that the announcement was meant for someone else, or that it was someone else’s responsibility to meet that need. What I have now come to realize is that those announcements are for ME. In fact, those announcements are for my benefit!

John 12:26 establishes that through my service I am in fact drawing near to Christ and I will be honored. That scripture says,

If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

Now obviously we aren’t serving to be honored… but rather to be obedient and to follow Jesus!

Matthew 20:25-28 says,

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 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 your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

It is sad that in our church today we have many “celebrities” or spotlight hogs wanting a position or attention, but very few servants. We have many aspiring leaders and many who want to “exercise authority” over others, but few who want to take the towel and basin and wash feet. Jesus came not to be served… but to serve!

In Philippians 2:3-8 Paul reminds us what is to be like Christ. That passage says,

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Personal responsibility is at the heart of the problem with service. If every individual within the church would determine to stop pointing to someone else and simply embrace the call to serve, then the church would more easily be all that God intended. Personal responsibility is quickly becoming a negative concept within our culture. We want to evaluate someone else… we want to pass the blame or change the topic.

I personally believe that the reason that servanthood is so difficult for a believer is that it begins with dying to self. Scripture emphasizes that “dying to self” is a believer’s responsibility.

Luke 9:23-24 says,

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

In John 13 we see Jesus exemplify the heart and action of a true servant. He provides for us a flesh and bone example of what we are called to do! Hours before His arrest and crucifixion Jesus humbles Himself in service to His disciples.

John 13:1-4 says,

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.

To put this action in context we must understand that in those days they did not have paved roads or cars… instead they had dirt roads and mules. They also didn’t have fuel emissions to do with… instead they had other “vehicle” issues and emissions to worry about. The disciples would have wondered in with sweaty feet that had been in open sandals all day as they walked about. Dirty roads and open sandals make for nasty feet! Typically in a household a servant would have the responsibility of washing off a visitors feet as they entered the house… Jesus became that servant.

I find it funny that in a room full of followers of Christ nobody offered to wash the feet of the Son of God! But… we shun our responsibility just the same.

We file in and out of the Lord’s house expecting to be fed… but we bring nothing to the table.

Now don’t get me wrong! We have nothing of value to offer Christ; we do nothing to save ourselves. But, we are called to serve.

Mark 9:33-35 takes us to the real root issue. It says,

Then they came to Capernaum. After Jesus was inside the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. After he sat down, he called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

At the Last Supper, no disciple volunteered to wash feet. The room was filled with men of God that were more willing to fight for a throne or position and not willing to fight for a towel.

Luke 22:27 says,

For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

So… what do you want? A position or a towel?

If we, as believers in Christ, are serious about placing Christ at the head as the Lord of our lives, our commitment to Him will be readily demonstrated by an eagerness to obey His word. In His word we are told to serve.

Romans 12:11 says,

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

Galatians 5:13 says,

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Romans 12:1 says,

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

1 Peter 4:10 says,

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.

We must stop basing our decisions to serve others on what we think, how we “feel,” or how convenient it is for us, and, instead start basing our decisions for serving on obedience to Scripture and following the example of Christ.

In fact, Our service is a demonstration of our devotion, love, and faith.

John 14:15 says,

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

James 2:26 says,

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.


So… I’ll leave you with this thought.

Don’t sit the bench and allow others to “play the game” and be involved in service to the Lord. Lace up your shoes and get out there… it may be more rewarding than you think.

A wise man by the name of C.G. Jung once said,

You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.

Get out there and do it. Show the world what you believe.

Colossians 3:17,

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

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