I have waited tables for a few years of my life now. I’ve heard the complaints, experienced the rude treatment from customers, received the requests for every type of drink and sauce and extra portion that has had me running in circles and often apologizing for the wait. But thankfully I’ve also gotten many compliments and even genuine interest from customers who have asked about my life and gotten to know me as a person.
However, as much as I have enjoyed many aspects of being a waiter, I cannot imagine spending the rest of my life waiting tables. Especially in our culture, it is usually a last-resort job to pay the bills; the kind of job that belongs to only college students and the older ladies at local diners. It is hard work submitting to every beck and call and having to put on a smile and give people what they ask for, even when you don’t feel like it. Serving means doing things for people that they don’t want to do for themselves. It is taking time out to do the “dirty work” for others.
Not only is it sacrificial, serving is even embarrassing. I remember times when I’ve had food on my shirt while serving a table, when I’ve spilled drinks on customers, or when a meal is taking a long time to come out of the kitchen and you are stuck having to keep the guests patient and explain why the food is taking so long.
Just recently I learned a new word for a waiter: the Greek word Diakonos. According to Biblestudytools.com, the English translation refers to “running errands,” “one who executes the commands of another,” and “a waiter, one who distributes food or drink.”
I found out that this word is the original Greek word used for “servant” in Mark 10:43. A couple of Jesus’ disciples figured that he had a lot of power and wanted to sit at his right hand when they got to heaven. This had the other disciples jealous and angry. This is how Jesus responded:
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45)
When you get a glimpse of the life of service that Jesus calls his followers to, it can be very frustrating to understand how and why we must live this out. My own pride and bitterness says, “NO! I just want to do what I want. Other people do not deserve that I serve them 24/7. I can get by with serving the people that are nice to me and those that say ‘thank you,’ but even still I won’t go out of my way if it is too difficult.”
This is simply not how I should respond. Jesus wants to live through me (Gal. 2:20), for me to be in relationship with Him and to trust and reflect Him. He laid his life down for me. He became less so that I could be free from the slavery of my sin and shame and uncleanness before God. He humbled himself to put on human flesh and then be unjustly killed to become a “ransom for many” (Mark 10:45), even those who tortured and crucified Him!
If the one who calls Himself the “Son of God” (John 12) and the Savior of all peoples (John 4) can humble Himself from his deserved high position to serve those beneath him, He truly has called us to do something that He has already done Himself. After being crucified, Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father. If we follow Him in his service, surely we will also follow Him toward being with Our Father in Heaven forever as well.
Surely us serving people is in itself telling a story to those we serve that God loves them and they are important to Him.
I will hopefully not be a waiter in a restaurant for the rest of my life. But with God’s help, I will take what he teaches me from my current job as a waiter so that I can best serve others for the rest of my life.
Please come along! Let’s go wait on people hand and foot with genuine love and selflessness. They often don’t deserve it. But they really need it.