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Summary: A message that warns against the destructive power of pride, encouraging followers of Christ to serve with humility.

“Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.’ But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, ‘Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?’ So he turned and went away in a rage. But his servants came near and said to him, ‘My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, “Wash, and be clean?”’” [1]

It is almost impossible for someone who has pastored as long as I have not to have accumulated an abundance of stories of incidents and of people that exemplify both the Faith as it was meant to be lived and the Faith as it is too frequently distorted by professed followers of the Master. My years of experiences ensure that I can readily recall a delightful catalogue of people who honoured God, even in difficult situations. Similarly, multiple experiences have ensured memories of people who seemed unable to walk the walk, though they were certainly eager to talk the talk.

One such negative memory involves a man possessed of an exalted opinion of his importance. Perhaps many such individuals have sought to join themselves to assemblies I have served, but this man stands out in my memory. Having united with the congregation, he was preparing himself for a new phase in his life. Unable to continue working in a prior trade because of an injury at work, he had studied to prepare for another trade. Completing the classroom phase of training, he had found a position as an apprentice on a job site. However, his experience in the new trade only lasted one day.

It is understood in the trades that an apprentice will be assigned to do much of the dirty work on a job site; this man, though somewhat older than most apprentices would be because of his previous work experience, was deeply offended at the requirement to do work he considered to be beneath him. He didn’t even complete the first day before he quit. Rationalising his decision to quit, he asserted, “I didn’t prepare for this trade just so I could dig ditches.” In short, he was too important to do what was required. To my knowledge, this man continues unemployed to this day. I could only conclude that in his opinion, he was too important to do hard tasks.

In any assembly, there seem always to be individuals who are too important to perform the tasks required to maintain a church in this day. They won’t wash dishes, or they won’t clear tables after a love feast. They don’t want to repair the front steps. Mowing the grass is beneath their station. Clearing snow from the parking lot is a task they will not perform. Cleaning the church is something that they would never deign do. They are too important to usher. Nevertheless, anytime a congregation meets in a building, whether they own the building or not, someone must attend to little details.

In one former congregation, a man informed me on the first Sunday he attended services that he had been an elder in his former congregation. Apparently, I appeared oblivious to his suggestion, because he felt it necessary to inform me quite pointedly on several occasions after that first meeting that he was prepared to serve as an elder in the assembly. He assured me that he was eager to begin making decisions for the assembly. However, participating in leading worship wasn’t something that he was prepared to do, and he didn’t feel that making repairs on the church building really displayed his talent—and he was a certified carpenter! Would you be surprised if I told you that he left not long after uniting with the congregation; it had become apparent that I was hesitant to appoint him to serve as an elder for the assembly. He was simply too important, and his self-importance would not permit him to assume any task that he considered beneath him.

Somehow, the message of the Master has failed to gain traction among the churches of this day. The Master has taught His followers, “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” [MARK 10:42b-45a]. Let the message of the Master take root in your mind: “Even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.”

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