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Service through servanthood

Before the restaurant had been in the area for more than two months, word had spread about the top-notch food and relaxed atmosphere of Los Amigos. The attractive adobe-clad Tex-Mex eatery next to the Baptist Building in Alexandria drew big lunch crowds and even bigger dinner crowds. There was a fountain with tinkling water and a dim interior with a good air conditioner. It felt like an oasis from the humid Louisiana summer days just outside.

From its opening to my departure to attend LSU, I worked as a server at Los Amigos on weeknights and weekends and all shifts in

the summer. In the mid 1980s, wait staff earned a small hourly wage with the understanding that good service would garner gratuities from customers so staff made a good salary. Not all customers knew this policy, and many thought tipping was discretionary, making a living wage more difficult. But I liked the challenge of giving courteous service to all in my station, and soon

I had customers who requested me when they came for lunch or dinner or even mid-afternoon munchies. I never rushed people and I made sure the table had its fill of complimentary chips and salsa. Sometimes this attention meant my day ended with lots of bills in my pocket; sometimes my best efforts earned big smiles and sincere thanks but little else. I tried not to equate my service with my reward.

In high school, my youth ministers challenged us to do all things as unto the Lord, and I determined to have a servant’s heart in all my life’s ways. Years later, I heard the story of a child in care whose job it was to sweep the front porch each day before dinner time. The young girl did not like sweeping; in fact, pushing the broom around was the chore she liked least, and she didn’t think she was good at the task either. The broom often had to make a second pass for a clean floor. But each day, the child kept a smile on her face throughout her duty. If anyone came close to her, they heard the girl’s singsong voice: “As unto the Lord.” The motion of

her sweeping matched the cadence of her words.

This small child, I realized, exemplified a life lived with a servant’s heart. Meekness seems outdated, and being meek is sometimes equated with being weak or subservient. But Jesus’s words in His sermon on the mount give a different snapshot: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). Someone who is meek before the Lord trusts Him. Strength is found in His power

and not in self.

Serving is not easy. In my teen years, servant leadership was the way our youth group understood bearing witness to our faith. We sought to lead in the way Jesus taught His followers—service through servanthood. It occurs to me that some may consider these old-fashioned ideals, and yet both the Old and New Testament writers emphasize the importance of sold-out, devoted service to the Lord. David testifies in Psalm 37:11: “But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace,” and Paul encourages young Timothy:

“But thou, O man of God, ... follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness” (6:11).

Servant heartedness is not something we grow out of, by the way. Some would insist that we must grow into a bigger kind of service, a truer kind of leadership, that moves away from meekness and into authority. Wielding our own power, it is believed, feels closer to leadership than giving oneself for others. Memories of Los Amigos bring smiles on most days, but that kind of work was strenuous and there were those who tried to make me feel beneath them.

Being a servant sounds good in the scriptures, but learned service takes drawing from deep inside. Hearing Christ’s words and agreeing with His truths are much different than putting His ways into action. But you and I, as Christians, know that it is by our actions that we are known. The way we live speaks eloquently of the One we serve and love. Servant heartedness is critical if we are to draw others to Jesus.

As the apostle James reminds us: “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only” (1:22). May each of our tasks be coupled with the words, “As unto the Lord.” To God be the glory.

Written by Jim Edminson, Editor of Charity & Children

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