We frequently encounter things which seem a little bit "counter-intuitive" in scripture - making it a little more difficult to really understand the intention of the passage, right? Things like "stop stealing and get a job to earn your way in life" seem like easy commands to really understand - they are straight-forward and to the point. When Jesus tells his disciples that the place of honor goes to those who will serve others, this is a little harder to grasp because the culture of the time didn't give the place of honor to the "slave" in the midst. In fact, the slave was there for the sole purpose of ensuring the needs of those he served were totally met. They weren't to think of themselves first, or their needs, but the one they served and whatever they would require for their comfort, protection, etc. To add to this discussion, Jesus pulls a small child into his lap and reminds the disciples that welcoming a child (those not given a very high place in the culture of the time) will welcome both Jesus and his Father into their lives. So, when Jesus says we move to a place of honor through service, and we get to know Jesus a little better when we embrace those who society really doesn't give much honor to, he is reminding us that God's way of doing things is much different than ours!
Jesus and his disciples went to his home in Capernaum. After they were inside the house, Jesus asked them, “What were you arguing about along the way?” They had been arguing about which one of them was the greatest, and so they did not answer. After Jesus sat down and told the twelve disciples to gather around him, he said, “If you want the place of honor, you must become a slave and serve others!” (Mark 9:33-35 CEV)
I think this is why we cannot trust our own judgment to always be "intuitively correct". We just don't consider things in light of God's way of seeing things. So, we need reminders about how God does see things - the importance of putting pride aside and embracing those others just don't take a lot of time with or value quite as much as others. Anne Frank said, "No one has ever become poor by giving." Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another." Gordon B. Hinckley said, "The best antidote I know for worry is work. The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired. One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served." I could quote several more, but I think you get the idea - serving others is important because we actually get more out of it than we ever would imagine. We don't serve to "get", but in serving we definitely "get"! We don't give to get, but in giving we get. We don't reach out to carry the burden of another because we want them to carry ours, but in so doing, we often feel the weight of our own burdens lighten, as well.
The way our world sees things may not be exactly the way God sees them, so trusting God with the truths he declares is important because we don't have solid examples of these truths around us all the time. When God says service yields honor - we don't always see this in society, do we? Sometimes people serve in military service and return home to be given anything but honor. At other times, people serve in places of public employment, only to be looked down upon as doing the jobs which are menial and "less than honorable". I don't know about you, but every time I crawl between the sheets of a clean bed in a hotel room, or enjoy a shower in the freshly cleaned shower, I appreciate the "service" of the one who made that bed and scrubbed that shower until it gleamed! When I see the miles and miles of back and forth walking a waitress puts on her feet each day, cleaning up cracker crumbs and tidbits of food left by diners galore, I cannot but stand in awe of their service.
Leo Buscaglia is probably not well-known to most of us, but as a Professor of Special Education, he emphasized the value and worth of those society often thought of as "challenged" and sometimes as even "damaged goods". He is quoted as saying, "It's not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something. May I suggest that it be creating joy for others, sharing what we have for the betterment of personkind, bringing hope to the lost and love to the lonely." I like his suggestion! I like his "view" on living for "something" - something which matters - which really "counts" in the end. The thing is - what really "counts" in God's eyes doesn't always "count" the same way here on this earth. So, we need to be less concerned with how other people think about what we "do" and how we "serve", but what God wants us to do and how he wants us to serve. Only then will we be fulfilling the place God has for us in this walk we call life! Just sayin!