It is a universal truth that people who like the Jane Austen book, Pride and Prejudice, frequently go beyond mere “like” to excessive admiration. One of my own daughters is just such a fan, revisiting the story in book, movie, or mini-series form on a regular basis.
“Life was so much better in those days,” she says with a sigh during those moments when modern life seems especially dislikable.
“Only if you were born to the right station in life,” I reply. “And even then, you still had to use chamber pots. Which, I suppose, is better than being the person who had to empty them.”
Because, you know, in any society, no matter how free, there is the person who empties the chamber pots. While today with modern plumbing this particular task is no longer so necessary, there is never a dearth of jobs that nobody wants to do. But there are many such jobs that need to be done.
My parents were of the generation that said, “An honest job, done well, is nothing to be ashamed of. Putting food on the table for one’s family is the most honorable thing that can be done.”
It’s a good attitude, one that is worth having whenever any of us finds ourselves in a position, literally, of humility, vulnerability, and social censure simply because of the job title we hold. In a society that defines ourselves, and our worth, by the work we do to earn money so that we can eat, it is easy to judge our worth, as humans, by man’s standards:
Are we a doctor, a lawyer, a politician, a university professor, an expert of some sort?
These are good things, we are taught, and anyone who does them is successful, regardless of the content, if any, of their character.
But as Christians, our world view is not shaped by the doctrines of men, and the apostle James says in the book that bears his name,
“My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.
“If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there,’ or “Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (2:1, 3)
It’s a pertinent question, and one many of us would automatically answer,
“Of course I treat all my brothers and sisters in Christ with respect!”
But the proof of how true our answer is lies in how we truly do treat others, and one of the best evidences of this is at the grocery store, when we are purchasing our groceries.
“Hello, how are you?” the grocery clerk greeted the woman behind me as I was picking up my bags and heading on my way.
The woman looked at her, looked away, and didn’t answer.
Now while it may be that she had hearing problems and didn’t hear the question, the issue of customers not greeting back the clerks who sell them their groceries is not an unusual one, something I know from personal experience, as well as the experience of those who are presently behind the retail lines.
“People talk on phones, they talk to each other, or they simply say nothing at all,” one person in the front lines, behind the register, told me. “Some people are very nice, but a disturbing number act rudely, as if we were their servants or something.”
“You, stand there,” or “Sit on the floor by my feet.”
An attitude of entitlement, at the expense of other human beings, or looking over someone’s head as if they didn’t exist, is not the attitude toward which we, as believers, have been called, and while I would like to believe that no Christian treats another human being, ever, like a lesser creature, I know this isn’t true.
We are not perfect. We all have bad days, and on some of them, unfortunately, we are not at our friendliest in public. But when it is an attitude of mind, a belief that the people who serve us, in public, are by some extension our actual servants and are thereby treated as such, then we are definitely acting at variance with the teachings of Christ, who tells us,
“I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
“I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:15-17)
Our Master, our Eldest Brother, set us an example of humility, meekness, and respect toward other human beings. As servants of Him, and more importantly as younger brothers and sisters in the household of His and our Father, we can do no better than to follow this example.