“The greatest among you will be your servant.” – Matthew 23:11
There’s an old story about two butcher shops located across the street from each other in a small village. Both were owned by equally skilled butchers who carried the finest quality meat, but one prospered while the other struggled. The one that prospered had a large loyal clientele, but the one that struggled suffered from a lack of regular customers. One day a newcomer to the village wandered into the first butcher shop to purchase some meat for dinner. Upon entering the store he received a warm welcome from the jovial proprietor. “Welcome,” he said with a smile, “I’ll be with you in a moment,” as he went about his business tending to a long queue of customers, all of whom he knew by name. Several days later the same newcomer again needed to buy some meat, but in an effort to spread his business around this time went to the other butcher shop. Except when he entered the store there was no warm friendly greeting, nor was there a long line of shoppers in front of him. Instead he encountered a grumpy old shop keeper who seemed bothered for having to wait on him. Wonder why the other butcher got all the business?
Then there’s the true story about Ted who worked as a checkout clerk at the local supermarket in our old neighborhood in Dallas. He was an older gentleman and although he was steady, methodical and efficient, he was not exactly the fastest checker in the store. Yet, on any given day there would be more customers waiting in Ted’s checkout lane than any other, even though some were much shorter. Why? Simple! Ted always had a friendly smile, a story to tell, a conversation to carry on – plus, he knew each and every customer by name. Most of us never thought of Ted as a clerk, but as a friend; and likewise Ted thought of the people he served as friends, not just customers.
Over time we all became aware that Ted’s wife was gravely ill, so it was not unusual for customers to ask about her, express concern and offer prayers. One day as I was checking out I too inquired about his wife after which I offered to pray for the two of them as well. Ted looked up at me with tears forming in the corners of his eyes. “Thank you,” he said. “We must be the most prayed for people on the face of the earth.” Ted, you see, lived by example Jesus’ words: “The greatest among you will be your servant.”