I still remember the feeling that crept up inside me years ago when I found the note.
Someone had jotted down reasons they felt I was being overpaid as a part-time minister of music and then accidentally left it in the hymnal after a church business meeting. They even went so far as to pro-rate my salary based on the number of verses we sang on an average Sunday!
The fact is, serving others sometimes comes with its own challenges. Our natural response is to justify our value and defend our reputation. But that isn’t the response we see from Jesus.
In the familiar passage where Jesus washes the disciples’ feet (John 13), we see the most extreme example of service. The Son of God stooping to wash dirty feet. Scholars tell us that was something reserved only for Gentile slaves. No self-respecting Jew would do that – much less God incarnate.
But right before He rose to wrap himself in the towel, John tells us, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper” (John 13:3-4).
The apostle makes a point of telling us that this lowly service was preceded by a clear understanding of who Jesus was, where He had come from, and where He was going. This is an important illustration for us.
Jesus’ acceptance with the eternal God and the accompanying joy that came from doing His will placed Him in a position where sinful man’s validation was irrelevant. He didn’t need – nor would He receive – any affirmation from those around Him. Why? Because His emotional and spiritual fullness was met in relation to God and not men.
Our craving for recognition and the need for approval is simply the flesh raising its ugly head. The truth is, by virtue of our death to the old man and living union with Christ, every believer is freed from the need to be appreciated. In reality, we have everything in Christ (2 Cor. 6:10), not just in the by and by but now.
We can even serve those in outright hostility toward us. Remember, Jesus also washed Judas’ feet just hours before Judas would place the kiss of betrayal on Jesus’ cheek. His understanding that the Father had placed all things into His hands made even Judas’ evil heart subject to the sovereign hand of God.
May God grant us the same joy Jesus experienced in doing the Father’s will, enable us to get our hands dirty, and free us from waiting on people to notice.