“. . . the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve . . .” Matthew 20:26-28
Back during my corporate days, I once became infuriated when our company changed one of its internal policy. I was deeply opposed to the change, convinced that it would severely inhibit our ability to transact business. I was so upset in fact, that I was determined to prove the “powers that be” wrong and that I was right, when I should have instead been focusing on ways to operate within the new guidelines. Before long, my obsession caused me to lose sight of my real purpose, that of serving the customers and employees who I was charged to serve. Only when I realized that my bitterness was robbing me of that true purpose did things begin to improve. As it turned out, the new policy, once I learned to abide by it, proved not to be nearly as devastating as I had predicted, the work environment became much more pleasant thanks to my changed attitude, and business got back on track and once again began to grow.
Someone once described glimpsing into hell, only to see its inhabitants gathered round a banquet table set with a scrumptious feast, not exactly what one would expect. Closer examination, however, revealed people in bitter agony; for in spite of the great feast before them, they were unable to bend their arms to feed themselves. A glimpse of heaven revealed the exact same scene. Except in heaven there was great joy and celebration; for the inhabitants there were using their stiffened arms to feed each other.
Although this fable may have been intended to create an image of the hereafter, it may be even more descriptive of the here-and-now. How often do we become obsessed with surviving or thriving – or proving we are right like I did – when our purpose is to serve? Surviving, thriving, and proving ourselves right is all about us, and focusing on “us” will ultimately lead to misery as demonstrated by the stiff-armed inhabitants of hell. Serving, however, is about others, and serving others is what leads to joy like the inhabitants of heaven experienced.
This is the leadership model Jesus came to demonstrate; for “. . . the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve . . .” Or as Dr. Albert Schweitzer once claimed, “the only really happy people are those who have learned how to serve.”