A sea captain and his chief engineer got into an argument about which one was more important to the ship. Finally, they decided to trade places for a day. The chief went up to the bridge, and the captain went down to the engine room. After a few hours, the captain suddenly appeared on deck, covered with oil and soot. “Chief!” he yelled, wildly waving aloft a monkey wrench. “You’ll have to come down here! I can’t make her go!” “Of course not!” replied the chief. “We’re aground!”
Who’s more important? We waste so much time having this discussion / argument. Even in the Church. Especially in the Church. We haven’t learned the lesson Jesus was trying to impress upon his ambitions apostles. Namely: “Quit arguing and start serving!”
Many in the church have a prioritized list of Christians that designates who is most important – who is serving the most. It goes something like this (#1 is the greatest servant):
- Missionaries (extra points if they live in Africa)
- The rest of us
Prioritization differs some, but most of us have a list like this somewhere either in our subconscious or conscious minds. If you give your life for the call, you are the “best” Christian. If you go overseas to do missionary work, you are a really great Christian. Ministers are great. Musicians are good, and so on. Of course, that means the “rest of us” are pretty mediocre in comparison.
This type of thinking is a subtle deception from the Pit. It sounds right to put martyrs, missionaries and ministers above the rest of us, but it has sinister implications:
- It causes many to abdicate responsibility, i.e., “It’s my pastor’s job to save people.”
- It creates enormous pressure on those at the top of the list to be more “holy” than the rest of us, i.e., “Did you see the way those missionaries’ kids behaved? I expected their parents to have better control of them.”
- It tempts those at the top of the list to be prideful about how they are serving (well, not the martyrs…they’re pretty much dead).
- It deprecates the contribution the rest of us make.
Here’s the thing…we are ALL missionaries. Doesn’t matter if you live in Podunk, Texas, or in Phnom Phen, Cambodia. Wherever you are, that’s your mission field. Everyone is a stranger in a strange land, because earth is not your home – heaven is. Just because you speak the same language as your mission group doesn’t make your mission less worthy (or less difficult, for that matter).
There are people in your mission field that will never know about a martyr’s death. They will never meet a “missionary,” and they may not set foot in a church before they give their hearts to Jesus. That means you’re it! God has entrusted that person or those people to you, and your role is every bit as important as anyone else’s in the Church.
Like the captain and the chief in the story, we all have an important job to do to keep the ship moving in the open waters. Whether we are topside or below deck is unimportant. Whether we are given a wrench or the helm is unimportant. It’s what we do with what we are given that matters.
Remember that in the parable of the talents, both the servant who doubled the five talents and the servant who doubled the two talents got the same appraisal, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” The servant who received the one talent could have earned the same praise, but he made excuses instead of using the resources his master gave him. (Matthew 25:14-30)
Bottom line: We serve wherever God has appointed us, and our obedience in that role is the measure of our “greatness.”