What is the worst chore or job you have ever had? For me, I hated mowing the lawn as a kid. I had terrible allergies, and before I was done mowing, I looked like Rocky after a beating – I could barely see out of my swollen eyes and sounded like Darth Vader.
In the days of Jesus, the worst job of all was removing someone’s shoes. People walked around on dirt roads covered in animal feces and urine, garbage, and other kinds of nastiness. After miles and miles of walking, your shoes smelled like Satan’s breath. To show humility, a student would do everything for his teacher with one exception – remove their shoes. That job was so nasty that it was left solely for the slaves, those at the bottom of the social order.
With John’s new ministry taking off like a rocket, the religious leaders came to ask John the Baptizer who he was. Rather than talking about himself, John instead talked about Jesus, saying in John 1:27, “the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” John, the anointed prophet of God that people had been waiting 400 years for, did not consider himself worthy to do the lowest job for Jesus.
While people are treating John like a star, he is acting like a servant. In our culture, we like to pay people to serve us, and we do not want to serve others. This in part explains the rudeness in the world as people cut in line at the grocery store, on the airplane, and on the freeway. It seems like everyone thinks that they are more important and worthy of service than everyone else. Unlike culture’s message, a servant of God is a high calling in the Kingdom. In Matthew 20:28, Jesus said that He, “did not come to be served, but to serve.”
John learned to serve from his godly parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth. They were a humble and godly ministry couple. Filled with the Holy Spirit, they devoted their entire life to faithfully serving God. Their son, John, followed in their example.
There is a vital lesson here. The key to maturing is serving. Pastors, preachers, counselors, mentors, worship leaders, and others can serve you. But, if you really want to mature, you need to stop being served and start serving. For parents, this starts when our kids are little. John the Baptizer did not go to a big church with an amazing kids and student ministry. Instead, he had godly parents with whom he studied, prayed, worshiped, and served. Even little kids can learn to pray for their class at church, come with an attitude of service to help the teacher, and open their heart for hospitality to welcome the new kids, shy kids, and scared kids. As kids get older, help them find practical ways to help at church. The word worship is often translated service, and this explains why we have church “services.” But, unless people are serving, they are not really worshiping. John learned this lesson early on, and it carried him throughout his life.
Are you serving in ministry somehow? If not, how and when can you start?