Elisabeth Elliot and her brother-in-law were having a discussion about what the most valuable quality is for a missionary. One thought it was humility and one thought it was flexibility. As they discussed further, they came to the conclusion that it really all comes down to the same thing.
“A missionary must be humble enough to be flexible. Nowadays young candidates are often so highly trained they feel overqualified for the jobs that need to be done. Most mission stations are in need of people who are willing to do anything that needs doing. It is fine to offer oneself for service, but the form of service must not be too narrowly defined. It is to minister to, not to be ministered to, that we are sent.” Discipline, The Glad Surrender p. 88-89
But, you say, I am NOT a missionary, nor will I ever be a missionary. Let’s think for a moment. Don’t we ALL feel overqualified for some of the tasks we have to do sometimes? How have we defined the service we offer our families? Our churches? Our friends? Do we have a narrow definition of what we are willing to do for them? Yes, I will meet you for coffee, but no, I will not have you and your family over for dinner. Yes, I will sing up front in the worship service, but I will not serve in the kitchen. Yes, I will cook your meals and do your laundry, but don’t ask me to _______________…you fill in the blank. Most of us have placed boundaries on how much we are willing to serve. Don’t ask me to do that menial task. We have our rights, too…our life to live. Don’t ask me to re-do my schedule for you. Who do you think you are, anyway? And yet…
We see Jesus’s example of being a humble servant. Matthew 14:13-14 says “When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself. But when the multitudes heard it, they followed Him on foot from the cities. 14 And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.”
We all know how that feels, don’t we? We are just sitting down with a nice cup of coffee and then a child yells for our help…or the phone rings…or our spouses want to talk…or the dog throws up. It is in those moments that the rubber meets the road and we find of what stuff we are made. We see that Jesus “had compassion for them”.
I wish I could say that I am moved by “compassion”. More often I am moved by Leslie’s desires. Yep, my own selfish agenda. So when something gets in the way of my nice little agenda, I am not moved with compassion, I am moved with anger and frustration.
In those occasional moments when we can glimpse eternity and make the right choice of serving others selflessly…it is in that moment that we realize one of the greatest gifts in serving Jesus…the joy of serving others. If we can respond correctly and have the right heart attitude, we are truly blessed by doing even the most menial tasks.