By Brandon Morgan
The Bee Gees were an iconic group in the 1970s that captured the hearts of the American people with their hit single “Staying Alive”. Well, maybe they didn’t capture our hearts, but they certainly had our ears. The falsetto family had us all singing at one point or another, “Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.”
However, there is another song by the Bee Gees that may not be as recognizable, “I Started a Joke”:
I started a joke which started the whole world crying
But I didn’t see that the joke was on me oh no
I started to cry which started the whole world laughing
Oh if I’d only seen that the joke was on me 1
Why am I referencing this somewhat obscure song? It is because I think it serves to perfectly illustrate the Christian’s relationship with the world and vice versa. Oftentimes, the things we are to glorify and revere and rejoice in, cause the world great pain. And what the world rejoices in, we despise. I think in our time, nothing is truer than what Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 20:25-28 (NIV):
You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
It’s funny how something can be before your eyes for so long without you understanding the implications.
It feels like I found out too late.
As a man in the midst of career transition (AKA looking for full-time employment), there was a certain sense of entitlement I had, that my education and background warranted a great job according to the world’s standards, but it’s clear that is not the way. And it was especially true this was not the way because no doors opened when I possessed this mindset.
The next phase of the mindset was the “seasonal servitude.” It’s somewhat of a dastardly mindset because it gives the appearance of following Christ with a false perspective. In a sense it’s as the book of Revelations would say, to “love and live a lie” (Revelation 22:15). My perspective in this mindset was, “Oh, I’ll serve for some time, and I’ll be promoted like Joseph.” Now, this can and does happen, but this mindset taken the wrong way can be insidious because it makes one feel that serving others entitles one to earthly promotion. Again, I’m not despising the blessings of having a high position. In fact, I feel God desires for his people to be in places of high position. If not, why would we have stories in the Bible about people like Joseph and Daniel? So how do we reconcile promotion and servitude?
Thankfully, the mission of the gospel transforms us from the inside out. No matter what we decide to do vocationally, God desires for us to be great in the Kingdom, which means he desires for us to have increasing levels of servitude in the Kingdom. Now, I don’t believe this means abandoning one’s calling. I believe it means always having a heart to serve. Every day, we should try to stretch ourselves in the level and the type of servitude we can offer others.
If you’re a CEO, you should be known for your magnanimous nature by your colleagues. If you’re a teacher, you should be known by your ability to listen to your students. If you’re in retail, you should abide in God to the point which you radiate joy, so all can see and give glory to our Father in heaven.
Ultimately, wars are not won in a day, but I believe persistent prayer wins wars. For those in positions of influence: one can pray every day, “Lord teach me and help me to serve others as you would today,” and then take small steps toward servitude. Maybe it looks like praising someone else for their accomplishments. It might also look like not speaking in a tone of voice that places you in the limelight. As Thomas à Kempis once wrote, “It is no harm to thee if thou place thyself below all others; but it is great harm, if thou place thyself above even one.” 2
For those who are in positions or places of currently uncomfortable servitude, one thing that might be helpful is to think, “Man, I’m becoming great in the Kingdom. This is amazing!” Although it sounds cheesy, I believe such a perspective may impassion one to serve more.
If you do have a sense of entitlement, and you feel any of your actions have earned you some promotion, ask God to help you rid yourself of that. It’s not a super cute attitude, and it especially conflicts with this Scripture: “Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of lights above” (James 1:17, author’s emphasis).
If Christ “did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage” (Philippians 2:6, author’s emphasis), but humbled himself, how much more should we do so?
If we don’t, as the Bee Gees said, “The joke might really be on us.” 1
1. Bee Gees. “I Started a Joke.” Idea, 1968.
2. “The Imitation of Christ: First Book: Chapter VII. Of Fleeing From Vain Hope and Pride.” Sacred-Texts, July 25, 2018, http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/ioc/ioc008.htm.