Serving and Being Served

Lou Lotz

READ : John 13:1-16

“Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” (v. 6)

Thomas Jefferson struggled over how standards of etiquette could be established in a democracy. Etiquette in Great Britain and Europe was based on social rank. In a monarchy, some are born to serve; some are born to be served. Everyone knows their place in the system; everyone knows how to act.

But in a democracy, where there are no kings and princes, and where people are born as equals, what then? The best answer Jefferson could come up with was that in a democracy we take turns serving one another. Sometimes we assume the role of a princess, sometimes we take the role of servant. Sometimes we serve; sometimes we are served.

In the church, sometimes we serve. Sometimes we are like Jesus, washing the disciples’ feet. Other times, we are the disciples, and someone is washing our feet. Jesus knew that there was a time to be on the receiving end, too, as with the woman who poured costly ointment over his head. The disciples were aghast at this extravagant gesture, but Jesus simply received the gift, so the woman would have the joy of giving it.

Sometimes we wash feet; other times our feet are washed. It is not good to be on one end or the other all the time. There needs to be a balance.


Lord: Whom can I serve?