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Pointers along the way #324

Serving tables
- Jacob Ninan

There was an incident in the early church when the Greek widows felt neglected during the community meals (Ac.6:1). When the apostles heard it they said that someone should be chosen to oversee this matter of serving food and the apostles should be left free to focus on the ministry of the word (v.2). Does this look like high minded behaviour, especially these days when there is much preaching on 'servant leadership'? Can one ask, "Did the apostles think serving tables was below them in any way? Shouldn't they have stepped in to fill the gap when there was need?"

One problem is in imagining that serving tables is a lower ministry than preaching, for example. The issue is about what the Lord has called each of us to do. If one is called to serve tables and he attempts to preach, everyone will recognise that the results can be disastrous. But what many people may not have thought about is that if the person who is called to preach serves tables instead, the result in this case also could be disastrous, because the preaching will get neglected or become less than the best possible. So when the apostles said that they could not neglect the ministry of the word they were not at all being high minded but being responsible to their own calling. It was neither that they could not serve tables because of a lack of ability, nor that they felt it would be below their dignity. They wanted to be faithful to the charge that the Lord had given them.

Many people act out of a sense of perceived need. They think that if the Lord has shown them a need and they have the ability to meet that need, it is required of them to meet that need. But in doing so they may hasten their own burn out by taking on themselves more than they can handle because they are already into many other activities to meet different needs, become less efficient in what the Lord has in fact given them to do, or deprive the opportunity for others to take up what the Lord wants them to do! Many are driven to take up such additional responsibility because they are unable to say "No" when someone asks them.

The advantage the apostles had was that they were clear what the Lord wanted them to do. Even though there were pressures from others about what they should do, they limited themselves to their own calling and responsibility. If we follow the life of Jesus during the days of His public ministry we find there also that He just stuck to what the Father wanted Him to do, and He did not allow Himself to be controlled by other people even when they were well meaning. He never burned out, and He finished all that the Father wanted Him to do.

This is not to comfort people who are unwilling to work hard! There is no excuse for laziness, and many times it is our unwillingness to come out from our comfort zone that prevents us from fulfilling God's calling for our lives. Then we miss many blessings also. But at the same time there is also need to be faithful to His particular calling for us.


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