Have you ever waited tables? I spent time in my college days as a waiter. Some of you may have done the same. It was at times taxing and at times boring, but overall a great job for a college student. I had all kinds of experiences with people as a waiter and I took home lots of cash (for a college student) every night. I loved that job.
It is hard to imagine being a waiter today. It is hardly a measure of success in today’s world. Sure, it’s okay for a college student because it is only a means to a degree and a more successful future. I don’t have to convince you of that. Even when I was in college I distinguished between the college-waiters and the career-waiters.
This view of waiting tables makes it particularly striking when we come across it in Acts chapter 6. It was in the early days of the apostolic church. The church was rapidly growing and the apostles were having a hard time keeping up with a daily distribution to the widows among them. In response to the squabble, the apostles said to the congregation, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.” It’s hard to imagine the apostles as waiters. Our first inclination is to think, “That’s hardly a job worthy of an apostle. At least they figured out that it was of lesser importance than the ministry of the word.” Then, when the role is assigned to other men known by the congregation as “full of the Spirit and wisdom” we tend to interpret “wait on tables” to something more dignified (like managing the money) that makes us feel easier about such qualified men doing it. “Waiting on tables” seems so demeaning.
What we forget is that Jesus himself said, “I came not to be served but to serve and give my life as a ransom for many.” Jesus came to “wait on tables,” as it were. We tend to measure a person’s importance by how many people serve him (lawn service, maid service, child-care service) or in the business world how many people report to him. But Jesus flips this on its head, “the greatest among you will be your servant” (Mt 23:11). In other words, the greatest among you will be the one “waiting on tables”.
When the men in Acts 6 are set aside to “wait tables” they were given the highest honor. It was an honor that required them to sacrifice time and ambitions. When I say, “sacrifice time,” I don’t mean the spare time they had leftover after all of their other priorities and ambitions were met. I mean time they would have spent on those other important things. “Waiting tables” wasn’t set against the ministry of the word to show it beneath the apostles. It is setup alongside the ministry of the word to show that it deserves just as much commitment and dedication.
As you may have noticed, we’re trying to step-up our service at Cornerstone. We’ve been asking that you keep your eyes open for opportunities to serve our neighbors and each other. What we haven’t mentioned specifically is that this will require us, as a congregation, to sacrifice time to address some of these needs. Some of you already serve, but others look to your church with a “serve me” mentality. Let Jesus’ words challenge you. His life given to serve you wasn’t so you could continue in the ways of the world (with a “serve me” mentality) but to transform you after his own image and follow his example. Are you ready to serve?
Serving alongside you,