Reflecting on Servanthood

One recent Spring morning I went for a walk through our neighborhood. I spent some time praying out of some verses in Paul’s letter to the Philippians “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness”. Phil 2: 4-7

As I walked I came across an increasing phenomenon in our neighborhood: Sergio, the Brazilian tree surgeon! Others might call him an arborist or a domestic lumberjack.

It may sound a bit funny but the typical American tree surgeon brings in a truck with a hydraulic lift on it and a large bucket on the lift arm. The surgeon gets in the bucket and raises it up beside the tree to cut the branches off. This equipment costs money and the American tradesman is also subject to a lot of licensing, health and safety and other regulations.

But Sergio comes with only his mountain climbing gear, his harness, ropes, and spiked shoes. He throws his belt around the tree, and begins to climb, with his chain saw hanging on a rope below him. I watched as he tied off a line to a branch, ran it on a pulley across another tree, then had an assistant lower the branch to the ground after he severed it. Sergio is legal, but you can be sure that some of the workers he employees are undocumented. Without the heavy equipment, the contraints of employment regulation, and paying less than minimum wage to some of his assistants, you can imagine he comes a lot cheaper than the American professional. In our forested neighborhood he is doing a lot of business. If you want to learn more about this lifestyle inAmericayou can watch a great movie from last year entitled, “A Better Life” – Mexican actor Demian Bechir was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as a member of the undocumented labor force.

So what does this all have to do with servanthood?

The migrant worker is willing to do what the local is not. He is willing to earn a lower wage and live to a lower standard just so that he can send money home to his family. The largest source of foreign income inSomaliais gift income sent home to the families of Somalis living in Europe andAmerica. I am sure there are many other nations where a similar practice is a significant source of income.

The migrant is also willing to take greater risks. He lives in the shadows, cares little for local customs, and if not focused on his own welfare is focused on a “Better Life” for the wife, children and extended family back home.

Jesus’ example of servanthood is one that lays aside the glories of the throne room of heaven, and, with little thought for personal comfort embarks upon a journey of salvation. In the words of English worship leader, Noel Richards, he “laid aside (His) majesty, gave up everything for me,”

Jesus calls us to this kind of servanthood. Paul underlines it. The Christian servant is willing to live to a lower standard so that others may live. He is willing to do what others are not willing to do. He is willing to take risks so that the great enterprises of God may be realized in the community where he lives.

May we live this kind of servanthood for our communities and for the world. May we not think about our own gain, but only about the glory of the one who sends and sustains us, and the ‘Better Life’ in abundance that he desires for all those who are still to find him.

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