I do not always feel comfortable allowing others to serve for me. At times I have felt unworthy of service. At other times wicked pride has intervened and kept me from allowing another’s love and unselfish demeanor to bless me. I think we all like being treated well, but feelings of personal inadequacy or false modesty can hamper a lot of joy that could otherwise be had receiving kind service as freely as we give. Refusal of well-intentioned kindness not only robs the giver of opportunities to serve, but may also ultimately lead to our own downfall and unhappiness.
Recently I attended musical performances of local middle-school students. While most sang lovely tunes with high proficiency, deserving of applause and recognition, I noticed consistently of the young performers that when they completed their numbers they lowered their heads and stiffly made their way off the stage as quickly as possible. We cheered, and for some even whistled, but the failure of the youth to pause and graciously receive our accolades diminished their performance, and to some extent reduced my enjoyment. It certainly did not encourage me to additionally cheer for them or call for an encore. I am not being critical of these children. They were wonderful. Among them were two of my daughters singing in tandem “Que Sera Sera.” However, if they someday wish to become performers in high demand they will need to show grace and appreciation in the very appreciation showed them for their performances. It is good to provide service, and perhaps even better to receive service with grace and gratitude, whether in the audience or on the stage.
When I was a young man studying music, I asked my voice teacher Dean Rhodus how I should respond to the compliments of others. Most of the venues in which I have sung during my lifetime have been in chapels and at memorial services, not very often conducive of applause or whistles. I found myself feeling uncomfortable with face to face compliments, not always knowing what to say, and therefore I had a tendency to avoid them. Dean told me not to avoid, but to give people an opportunity to express appreciation through compliments. He said to me, “Just say ‘Thank you,’ shake their hands, and show equal appreciation for their expression. And try not to say more.” I learned that it is important to simply be humble and open. False modesty or braggadocio serves no one. Exercising this wise counsel, I have found opportunities to provide music come more frequently as people appreciate and feel appreciated. Therein lies a gift which serves all.
When I was a little boy and my dad’s father would come to visit with his wife, we always went out to dinner and breakfast. While we all appreciated this opportunity to go out to eat with Grandpa and Granny, I think my mother felt a little sad that they rarely ate in our home, disallowing her service. At the end of dinner I always witnessed the same thing, Dad and Grandpa racing to grab the check. Neither one of them wanted the other to pay for the meal.
As a young man hanging around with older mentors and employers, it felt quite natural for them to pick up the check, for which I hope I always showed gratitude. When I became an employer and leader, picking up the check or providing some service became the norm for me, which I recognize now sometimes made people less comfortable, perhaps feeling as if they were denied the opportunity to treat. I have tried to quash that behavior of mine and gratefully say thank you when others take opportunities to serve me. It is a real blessing to both serve and receive kindly service.
“Just say ‘Thank you,’ shake their hands, and show equal appreciation for their expression. And try not to say more.”Dean Rhodus
Wicked pride denies blessings of giving and receiving like little else can. It does not make sense for us to allow the evils of pride to deprive us of necessities. Would we deny ourselves some kind of medical or dental care because we do not feel like we are on the same societal strata as our doctors? Of course we would not. If the only way we could get needed care was to be humble and accept the kindness of others, it would be foolish not to be grateful and proceed.
We learn from the Savior that not humbly accepting divine acts of service can and will jeopardize our salvation.
During the last supper, in the hours prior to His atoning sacrifice, crucifixion and death, Jesus knelt before His apostles with water and a towel, and washed the feet of those men who walked with Him dusty paths. “He poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded. Then cometh He to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto Him, ‘Lord, dost Thou wash my feet? …Thou shalt never wash my feet.’”
My first inclination here is an understanding of how Peter felt. How could he possibly allow the Messiah, the Lord God, to kneel before the weak and imperfect Simon, and wash his worn, sweat and soil covered feet? I can feel his discomfort. I think we all can.
But then the Lord answers declaring the importance of receiving humble service, and a specific service that only He can give, and we are eternally lost without. “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.”
Those sobering words bring dear Peter to a clear enough understanding that he needs the Lord Jesus Christ, he wants to be with Him, and he will accept at the Redeemer’s hand whatever is necessary to that end. Peter responds to Jesus enthusiastically, and with gratitude, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head” (John 13:5-6, 8-9). These words fill my heart with inexplicable joy, gratitude, and desire to say to the Lord myself, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Whatever it takes Lord, I want to be with Thee.”
We need to put aside feelings of personal inadequacy, false modesty, wicked pride, anything that keeps us from sincerely giving, and humbly receiving with gratitude. It is especially important that we recognize there are some things we cannot do for ourselves, and for these we need help. There are eternal consequences for not sharing and receiving with grace, especially the greatest gift of all, without which we are lost. We do not understand all that was done for us, but we are promised that hereafter we will have knowledge and understanding. Suffice it to say, the Lord has redeemed our debt, our very souls, and all we have to do is gratefully receive His gift.
May it be on our lips, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” He showed us the perfect way by giving and loving without expecting reward or compensation. A sign to all of our discipleship in Christ is doing likewise. As He said, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35). Let us do as He did, give as He gave, and receive as He received, even unto the washing of His own feet with humble tears. As we practice this in life, we will learn to receive His grace in the eternities, and this is my prayer and personal witness that we will gratefully receive. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.