[Jesus] took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. (Jn. 13:4-5, NRSV)
Many of us are so familiar with this story that we may miss its significance. What Jesus was doing here was not just a nice little gesture with some pleasant symbolism attached. It was actually shocking, almost scandalous. What He did would be kind of like having your boss and her husband over for dinner and noticing her quietly taking out the overflowing garbage pail. Or like if your child threw up in church and the pastor came to clean it up. Sort of like that. Foot washing was something the disciples considered to be beneath them. How much more was it beneath their Master, Jesus! Yet Jesus did it. In fact He insisted on doing it. He was making a point.
Might His point have been something like this? Ministry in My Kingdom isn’t always glamorous. It isn’t always fun. If you’re doing it for admiration and recognition, forget it! Kingdom work means serving people. And serving people gets messy. Sometimes there are bad smells; often you get dirty in the process. Many times you’ll end up exhausted. But serving others—even in the most menial, degrading ways, is not beneath you. Not if You’re truly My servant, anyhow, because it’s not beneath Me.
Ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart and help you see why you do ministry. Is it for the joy of it? For the sake of helping someone else see Jesus? Does compassion motivate you?
Or is service an obligation? Something you do to avoid the disappointment or disapproval of others. Are you motivated by the thanks and recognition you might get later? Would you serve if you knew no one else would ever know about it?
If you consider some forms of service to be beneath you, ask Jesus to forgive you for that attitude and to change your heart. Or if you serve others for the recognition you’ll receive, ask forgiveness for that, too. Then ask Him to fill you with His humble confidence and selfless love so that you can serve others in the same way He did. Ask Him to show you one way you can do that today. And, with His help, do it!