Lower: How Low Can You Go?

There’s one game I always hated, whether at school, camp, or church – The Limbo.

It was always some dorky adult’s idea of fun for us kids, usually accompanied with a Luau theme. They’d put on a record (I’ll explain that one later, kids), and we’d all see “how low we could go.”

But for the big boy in the group wearing the “Husky-Sized” pants (that would be me), this was always a game I was ready to sit out. Participation could only lead to humiliation. Let’s face it—what’s funnier than a fat little boy trying to squeeze under a skinny pole while goofy music is playing?

It turns out that “getting low” has often been difficult for Jesus’ followers as well. When he arrived at the Last Supper, his disciples came in arguing about who’d be the most important in the coming “Messiah Administration.” When they walked into Jerusalem, crowds had sung “Hosanna.” Big things were coming. Cabinet positions, heads of state—surely they must have thought these were just around the corner, riding on the back of that donkey along with Jesus.

With all the posturing, no one bothered to wash anyone’s feet. That may sound random, but it was important in Jesus’ day. With due respect to DaVinci, seating arrangements were nothing like his painting depicts. They would’ve been seated on the floor, reclining on pillows, feet in close proximity to others. And since travel was on foot or by animal, dirt was not the only “organic materials” on their sandals.

Traditionally, the lowliest servant in the household would wash the feet. Since this was a private party, a disciple needed to do the job. As Jesus waited on them, he realized the Father had provided another “teachable moment” for them.

The Rabbi stood up. Notice he didn’t merely dab a couple of toes gingerly. No, Jesus, Son of God, took off his outer garment. He wrapped a towel around his waist, got a basin of water, and knelt down to do the dirty work.

The lesson’s clear: If you want to be great in Jesus’ “Kingdom Come,” you must serve others and not yourself. Stop vying for the top and move to the bottom. You must stop trying to save your life and, instead, spend it on others. In fact, you must be willing to do what others believe is beneath them.

All that flies in the face of this present world’s system: “If you want respect, you’d better demand it;” “Moving up the ladder? Be ready to step on folks on the way up.”

Even pastors can miss the point. Some “important” ones are convinced others should serve them instead. They walk around with an entourage rivaling P. Diddy’s, with a special seat at banquets and a reserved parking spot. A few are bullies with a handshake and a hug, like Lotso Bear from Toy Story. Their smiles blind you to the inferno of ambition burning behind their eyes.

Unfortunately, that kind of leader often succeeds in building a kingdom. Power draws people like flies, and the pack is all too willing to stare at the backside of the Alpha Dog who fights his way to the front. The servant leader rarely sees the kind of success that will impress.

I’ve found this true here in the land of the Bentley and Tommy Bahama shirt as well. Wealth and power are intoxicants, and their “substance abusers” abound here. Nothing wrong with those unless you believe they bring you value as a person. Sadly, some folks with the greatest personal assets seem utterly bankrupt as human beings. If you spend your life chasing the world’s success, it’s no shock your eternal “portfolio” goes unattended.

The real shocker may come when they hand out the crowns in heaven. A lot of religious bigwigs will expect to hear their names called for awards, only to be shut out by some “nobody” who worked in their church nursery. Some pearly white smiles will go crestfallen when their “good works” go up in a puff of smoke. And some elite power brokers will find themselves at the back of the line, sweeping up after the celebration ends. That’s the day the real rewards will be handed out, and we will all lift up on our shoulders the humble, the hard workers, the tireless givers of this life. And on that day, the Bible says Jesus, the greatest Servant of all, will look at them and say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew).

I guess “The Limbo” is a pretty good picture of what really matters in this life. Because today, God is asking us to follow Jesus’ example and be a servant while the rest of the world runs to cut in line and be first.

So… how low can you go?

Photo credit: By Jarek Tuszyński