Paul, the servant, eloquently expressed the second greatest commandment that Jesus set forth in the Gospels. “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Galatians 5:13-14).
Some people feel that the new freedom they find in Christ puts them in a position to act as a judge on the Supreme Court. They have the exalted opinion that their word is law and no one else’s opinion is to be considered. They go from sinner to judge. Now that they have been cleansed and liberated, they become so “righteous” and “holy” that they are able to criticize, backbite, and tear apart someone else who does not measure up to their law.
While their mouth speaks Christian ethics and character, under the guise of righteousness they sow discord about someone in authority. They do not have the courage to voice their objections to the one they are talking about. No, they go around stealthily doing their dirty work while all the time pretending to be holy. God has said people with such actions will not inherit the kingdom of God. “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lascivious-ness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envying’s, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like . . . they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gala-tians 5:19-21).
It does not matter if a person keeps every other commandment but then sows discord among the church; his actions are an abomination to God. All his good is undone by the way he treats his brother. “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, an heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:16-19).
A destructive critic in the church is poisonous. He self-righteously tries to get the mote out of someone’s eye while he has a beam of envy and self-righteousness in his own eye. No individual should act as a judge of other people’s character and motives.
If someone says he is serving others, as Galatians 5:13 commands, but allows himself to be caught up in tale bearing and sowing discord, then his service is in vain. If we feel a need to discuss something questionable about some-one, let us go to the Lord with the problem and make it a matter of fervent prayer. If a situation really bothers us, we can go to the person involved with love and not a blast of hate, jealousy, and harmful criticism. Jesus condemned the wrong spirit as much as or more than sinful acts themselves.
It is impossible to serve one another as Galatians 5:13 says to do when we hurt someone by a flapping, unbridled tongue, for verse 14 says serving one another is bound up in loving our neighbor as ourselves. No one likes to have people ignore him or talk bad about him. John said, in essence, Do not tell me how much you love God when you cannot even love the people you see. (See I John 4:20.) Truly religious people have genuine love for others, and they control their tongues. James 1:26 states emphatically, “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.”
Sometimes a gossiper will justify his words by saying, “Well, I’m just talking this over with my friend,” or “I’m trying to save someone from being contaminated.” But actually the gossiper may be casting shadows on someone’s character. Many of the things people tell about another person are exaggerated. Talebearers typically have never walked in the other person’s shoes and do not know the load that person carries. They are insensitive; they do not see people through the eyes of Christ but through their own haughty magnifying glasses. Jesus called such judgmental people hypocrites.
“A little boy once went home to his mother and said, `Mother, Sister and I went out into the garden, and we were calling about, and there was some boy mocking us.’
“‘How do you mean, Johnny,’ said his mother.
“‘Why,’ said the child, ‘I was calling out “Ho!” and this boy said “Ho!” So I said to him, “Who are you?” and he answered, “Who are you?” I said, “What is your name?” He said, “What is your name?” And I said to him, “Why don’t you show yourself?” He said, “Show yourself.’ ”
“‘So I jumped over the ditch and I went into the wood, and I could not find him, and I came back and said, “If you don’t come out I will punch your head,” and he said, “I will punch your head.” ‘ ”
“His mother said, `Ah, Johnny, if you had said, “I love you,” he would have said, “I love you.” If you would have said, “Your voice is sweet,” he would have said, “Your voice is sweet.” Whatever you said to him he would have said back to you. For you see, you were hearing an echo.’ “3
Jesus gave us the key to what we want echoed in our lives: “With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:2).
“What a mighty engine that is,” someone remarked as a huge, new locomotive rushed past. “Yes, when it is on the rails,” was the stationmaster’s reply. On the rails, power; off the rails, destruction. It is time for the church to get on track and become the powerhouse of love it is supposed to be.
“When Charles Spurgeon was just a boy, the family had visitors to their home in Norwood. The visitors had eyes and ears for all things and observed that Charles asked his mother for some eggs from the henhouse. Mrs. Spurgeon replied, ‘Yes, Charles, but you know you have to pay for them.’
“It seemed strange to the visitor that the parents should charge their own son for eggs, and the rumor started that the Spurgeons were stingy and greedy even with their own children. They sold eggs and milk from their private dairy also. Not until after the death of the great preacher was the real explanation made public. Books were found which showed all dairy sales and profits therefrom, all of which had been devoted for years to the maintenance of two elderly widows of Welsh ministers. But the cruel critics understood not.”3
It would be wonderful if more efforts were made to help others instead of tearing others apart. A story is told about a ruler of a certain country who decided that his subjects were too selfish and had too little regard for helping others. He slipped out one night and placed a large stone in the road. The next day the king watched from his windows to see what would happen. Some teams drove around it, cursed it, and went on their way. One man berated a populace that kept no better roads but made no attempt to move the stone out of the way. Travelers came and went, avoiding the stone, but no one offered to move it. Finally the king went to the stone in broad daylight in the sight of everyone. He pushed the stone off the road, and underneath was a box filled with gold. On the box was this inscription: “For him who takes the trouble to move this stone.” There was no need to point out the moral. Each person realized that if he had only thought of the good of others, he would have reaped a rich personal reward.
We should not knock down someone who is trying to work for God and do his best; rather we should encourage and pray for him. It is easy to be negative and destructive; those kinds of people are a dime a dozen. But the church needs to realize there is none righteous but God. “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).
“Let me wash your feet” should characterize our spirit, instead of “Let me tar and feather you.” Paul coupled serving one another and loving one’s neighbor; he did not separate them. It is impossible to speak evil of one’s neighbor to someone else and love that neighbor at the same time. If a person smiles at someone he undermines, bids him good day, maybe gives him a gift, and partakes of his food, he is not “serving one another.” He is slicing one another! If someone has surgery knives out waiting to pounce on the next victim, yet he smiles and acts as if everything is all right to that person’s face, his actions are revolting to God.
It is possible for someone to become so busy tearing down others, afraid they are going to get ahead, that he cannot see what God wants to do. The eye follows those who are under attack, waiting for them to make a mistake, so he can pounce on it and say as in Psalm 70:3, “Aha, aha,” almost rejoicing in their wrongs instead of praying and believing in them. That is not a servant spirit; that is a judging spirit.
After Jesus proclaimed, “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11), He immediately denounced the haughty spirit of the Pharisees of His day. He said they were “whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. . . . Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Matthew 23:27-28, 33).
If all the law is fulfilled in loving our neighbor, then any action that goes against this principle is sin. It does not matter how well a person acts in another area, if he does not love his neighbor as himself, then all is lost.
If a church stops gossiping and starts praying and praising, loves instead of shoves, mortifies the flesh in-stead of others, that church will have revival—all because the people truly serve and love one another.
“A traveler who visited the cathedral at Pisa relates how he stood beneath its wonderful dome and gazed with awe upon its graceful proportions. Suddenly the air was filled with music. The great dome vibrated with harmony. Waves of music swelled like the roll of a great organ, then became soft, far-reaching echoes, melting into stillness in the distance.
“The harmonies had been produced by the guide who, lingering behind a moment, had softly struck a triple chord. Beneath the magic dome every sound resolves into harmony and no discord can reach the summit of the dome and live. Every voice, footstep, murmur, or bustle of the crowd is somehow blended into pleasing notes.
“If a dome, the work of man’s hands, can thus harmonize all discords, can we doubt that under the great dome of God’s heaven all can be made to work together for the furtherance of God’s redemptive purpose toward all who love Him? Every affliction, tear, and grief will be blended into harmony within the overarching dome of divine grace.”3
If we will seek to be kind and not be in such a rush that we blindly ignore the needs of others, we can eradicate much pain. The Samaritan took time to help a beaten man who was bleeding and helpless. Are we guilty of having the spirit of the priest and the Levite, or do we have the spirit of the man in the following account who helped a poor, worn-out soldier?
“A soldier, worn out in his country’s service, sought to make a living by playing in the streets of Vienna. After a while his hand became feeble and his music was very poor. One day while he sat in great despondency, a man passed who paused and said, ‘My friend, you are too feeble to play; let me take your violin.’
“He then began to play exquisite music. A great crowd gathered and coins poured in until the soldier’s hat was full. Tut those coins in your pocket,’ said the violinist, `and start over again.’
“Again the hat was filled as the violinist played more sweetly than before. Then the hearers began to whisper, `Who is it?’ Someone entering the crowd said: ‘Why, that is Bucher, the famous violinist.’ “3
Yes, the artist had taken the old soldier’s place, borne his burden, played his music, and earned his livelihood. So the Lord Jesus came, bore our burden, and ascended up to glory. We His followers must help the feeble, the needy, the worn, the sick, and the torn anyone who has a need. If we as the body of Christ will accept the challenge, the world will see Christ in us and cry, “The LORD, he is the God,” as the people did on Mt. Carmel with Elijah (I Kings 18:39), for love is the loudest language of all!
The above article “The Motive of a Servant” is written by Joy Haney. This article was excerpted from Haney’s book May I Wash Your Feet?.
The material is copyrighted and should not be repainted under any other name or author. However, this material may freely be used for personal study or purposes.