Other Humans Are Not Our Servants

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.

Afternoon Tea inspirational original oil painting of mother and child at tea party in meadow by Steve Henderson; licensed prints at Great Big Canvas, iCanvas, Framed Canvas Art, amazon.com, art.com, and allposters

How we treat others who are more vulnerable than we — especially when others are not watching — says more about who we are than any job title we hold. Afternoon Tea , original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed prints at art.com, amazon, allposters, Great Big Canvas, iCanvas, and Framed Canvas Art

“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.

To read more on this subject, please follow the link to my Commonsense Christianity article at BeliefNet, Do We Treat Fellow Christians Like Servants?

The Misfit Christian Book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Live Happily on Less book by Carolyn Henderson at amazon.com Grammar Despair paperback and digital book at Amazon.com by Carolyn Henderson Step by Step Watercolor Success digital DVD workshop by Steve Henderson at Amazon.com

This post is linked to Woman to WomanWholehearted HomeIntentionEmbracingI Choose JoyImparting GraceSoul SurvivalMom to MomTell It ThursdayHearts for HomeGive Me GraceA Little R and RGrowing in GraceA Little BirdHomemakingWise WomanTime Warp WifeTitus TuesdaysSimple Life, Nourishing JoyMoms the Word, Simple Moments, Look at the Book, Missional Woman, Christian Mom Blogger, Rebecca, Arabah, Create with Joy, Misadventures, Fellowship Friday

About This Woman Writes

Carolyn Henderson is the marketing manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art. In addition to her This Woman Writes blog, Carolyn writes a regular art column for FineArtNews, an online newsletter for artists and art collectors.
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15 Responses to Other Humans Are Not Our Servants

  1. unspeakablejoymccoy says:

    Absolutely! I agree with seeing this at the grocery store. I make it a point to always ask the clerk how their day is going. I also heard an elderly woman once describe how when she became old, she became unnoticeable. So I try to make it a point to always talk to elderly people I see in a store.

    In high school, I worked at a very popular fast food restaurant in CA. I was always amazed at how the after-church crowds that came in were always the rudest customers. We are not always perfect. You are right! Thank you for the reminder to be an example and a light wherever we go. God bless!

    • You, like me and many others, speak from experience of being overlooked and treated rudely. Maybe it’s the best way to get the lesson embedded in our consciousness!

      I know. We are not always perfect — and it is good that we not flagellate ourselves to be so. It is unfair to be set to standards too high for any human to reach, and we should extend forgiveness to others the same way we want it extended to us (even if and when it isn’t). However, there is also a tendency, among any of us, to pop out with, “We are not perfect,” when someone makes an observation about rudeness or insensitivity among the Christian sector. While we cannot take the faults of the composite Christian group upon us and apologize for them or make excuses, we CAN acknowledge our own foibles and say, “You know, I was rude. I didn’t think I was, and I didn’t mean to be, but now that I see it, I want to continue to be aware of this tendency in me.”

      And if church crowds have a reputation for being insensitive (which they do, and this could stem as well from that they are identifiable by swarming into a restaurant after the morning service), then the individual people in those crowds will want to stop and think, “I don’t want to be part of this labeling. I can’t change other people, but I can change my own behavior, and I will.” As a group, the body of Christ (which does not necessarily correspond with the church crowd) is supposed to be known for our compassion, thoughtfulness, caring, love, mercy, and grace. Not our impatience or rudeness.

  2. Tai East says:

    Carolyn, I loved reading this! It was such a powerful and thought-provoking truth! Thank you so much for sharing this! Happy Easter and infinite blessings to you, Love!🙂


    • Thank you, Tai. You know, the interesting thing about being a Christian is that we are looking, naturally, for ways to make our world better, and to share God’s love in it. And we make this so complicated, agonizing about “saving the world” and really, really big projects that — mega-speakers convince us — require our sending money to other people, big names for Jesus, who will get the work done for us.

      But this is a misconception. If we cannot go to the grocery store without leaving the person who sold us the groceries feeling like a lesser human being, then we are failing at a small, extremely important task that is worth getting right before we think any bigger. After all, what is bigger, really, then the soul of another human being? And when we damage it, through rudeness or condescension, how we have hurt. But when we give grace — with humility, which is really, really difficult to do and can only be done by learning humility at our Eldest Brother’s teaching — then we do great works for God. And we’re ready to do more!

      Happy Easter to you, too, my sister — may it be more than a day, but a love that infuses every moment of your life.

      • Tai East says:

        Thank you so much, Carolyn! You are very right and I concur 100%. I just love your heart towards other people. It’s truly beautiful to see such compassion.

        • God has this patient, merciful way of stopping us in our tracks when we act in not-the-best fashion, and it is comforting to be able to talk with Him about this. “I acted like a bit of a supercilious slob just now, didn’t I?” I recall recently praying while I was driving one day. The answer was just a firm sense of warm acceptance, with a gentle “yes” most decidedly incorporated.

          • Tai East says:

            So very true! And I’m so very thankful for HIS grace and HIS mercy. And grateful that HE’S given me a heart to love others so deeply. So often we overlook the small things in life forgetting that those small things may mean nothing to us, but everything to someone else.

  3. Alyssa Thys says:

    Great thoughts! Thanks so much or sharing! We can miss such great opportunities to bless and be blessed when we don’t treat people as people Christ loves and died for.

    • Indeed we do miss out on much — the people we treat wrongly miss out, and we miss out, because we stay shallow and small, convinced, deep down, that we are better somehow. But life has a way of humbling all of us, and wise people learn from those lessons!

  4. lperkowski says:

    Great lesson here. I want to try to be more like Jesus every day, although I know sometimes I fail. God sees all His children as equals, playing no favoritism. I know that if we do the same, our hearts will be changed in ways that we could never imagine.

    • That is true, my friend. Anytime we look seriously at the things God says about Himself and His relationship with us, and decide to take it seriously — really believe it, and move forward with that sense of belief — things happen. And like you say — things we could never imagine or predict.

  5. Donna Stone says:

    I agree. We are to treat everyone with respect.

    • A good goal — easy to drop in our day to day humanness. But the beauty of life is that, generally, we all get at least one opportunity to be in a humble place, and be mistreated, ignored, eclipsed, overlooked, and discounted. How we deal with this determines the next shaping of our character.

  6. Letetia says:

    To this: “as Christians, our world view is not shaped by the doctrines of men” – yes! Thank you for this wonderful post!

    • You are welcome, Letetia, and thank you for your encouragement and kind words. It is a constant part of our walk with wisdom that we discern between God’s truths and man’s doctrines — not always easy, because the latter does a really good job of camouflaging itself.

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