Serve instead of being served

By Vinal Van Benthem | For The Compass | September 20, 2018

“Let us beset the just one because he is obnoxious to us.” “Where do the wars and … conflicts among you come from?” Well, “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist” seems like a pretty good place to start! Unfortunately, things haven’t changed much over the years. In Mark’s Gospel we find Jesus telling his disciples about how he will be treated. He was probably hoping that they would understand and maybe even have a little sympathy. But, instead, they’re busy talking about who’s more important than whom. No, things certainly haven’t changed much over the years.

“If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” How can Jesus ask such a thing? Everyone knows that getting ahead means being served, not serving! True, such behavior probably won’t result in purity, peace, gentleness, compliance or a fullness of mercy, but we’re looking at finding a job and there’s no mention of righteousness when you’re standing in the unemployment line.

Pete is a young man on his way up. He knows the industry and where the power resides. Pete is ambitious and proud of it. Hank knows the industry, too, but, unlike Pete, Hank also knows the customer. Hank doesn’t spend his energy within the industry, pushing and shoving his way to the top. He spends his energy outside, talking to the store owners with whom his company does business. Hank understands the “little guy.” His dad was a small business owner and Hank knows what it means to be at the mercy of big business — unable to buy in large quantities, unable to distribute the losses in a bad year. While Pete is busy making sure he’ll end up with top sales, Hank is working to serve the needs of those people to whom he makes those sales.

Pete doesn’t like Hank. He compares him to a naïve child. Pete doesn’t care much about “… transgressions of the law …” so long as his bonus check looks good. If his ambition creates conflict at work, so be it. Who is the greatest? Pete or Hank? Profit or peace? Where do we spend our energy? And do we have the wisdom to know the difference?

Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.

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