Service Please!

Service. There seems to be no standard for us to get like minded on it. Unless it's the one thing we've all heard from an early age, "Just do what you're told." We all have our own perception of it. Service means different things to different people normally dictated by what their personal need is at the time. has 15 variations of the noun in its thesaurus, 3 of the verb. Our English word tracks back to the latin servitum (slavery), from servus (slave).  The general concept of all these definitions do have one thing in common. To serve is to give. In our lives today... because how our culture in our time is set up, it is to give of one's self. Unless one's on government assistance an individual can't survive without providing service. Business can't survive without it. Interesting... but not surprising to me is that so many in western culture has such a negative view of service. In the giving of it and/or the receiving of it. The only reason humans have survived this long is from helping each other. We've come a long way as a species in a rather short period of time because of it. But the very essence of our word "serve" is rooted in ancient slavery. Slavery is commonly perceived in our understanding as a very negative experience. The American handling of it was treacherous. For the most part that is the American perception of the whole concept. But it's been around a loooot longer than us!... and! it's still around! Hell, there was a Mexican sex slave ring bust right here in east Tennessee and Kentucky just a few months ago! Slavery, done right... has a purpose in society. But misuse motivated by greed has corrupted it completely in our time. Actually, slavery is in effect today. Rather rampant too. It's just taken another form and our country is getting swollered up in it. Have you ever tracked the origin of our word "mortgage?" 

But that's a 'hole 'nuther story!

Everybody expects to be served in what ever need it is that needs filled but... What about the service you offer? How much effort do you put forth to do your best? Everyday? It's been my experience in my 35 years of being out there in the working world that the vast majority (not all!) of people's willingness to serve is during a job interview and maybe a month or two into the job. Many just need to get to know the system to figure out how to manipulate it enough to get by with doing the less they can. Some want to serve from the heart but that motivation is normally derailed by the company they work for ran by an impersonal corporate board driven by little else than profit. Makes ya feel like a slave sometimes, don't it?! How can those of us that truly want to put our hearts into our work that we may experience the joy of it stay motivated do so when the world seems full of parasites desiring to suck the life out your effort? Sometimes?... It just ain't easy!

Of course the truth of God's Word has the encouragement needed for His people to stay movtated on the job. And this is one good example of how profitable being diligent is in studying and working the Scriptures. This is one example of how to hit them gold nuggets of Truth others can't find. Ya ready?! Language has been around at least as long as when humans grew a tongue and figured out how to use it. Even though the human race has gone through a lot of languages, we all on this planet are using the evolved versions of some that have survived countless generations. Unless of course you've learned Klingon recently. The concepts we communicate to each other are surprisingly still similar to that of our ancestors. We want others to know what we experiencing. We want to share our perceptions of this universe we find ourselves in and what's goin' on in it. Tracking a word's history can add layers of flavor otherwise missed. A workman of the Word has to develop the ability to look at the Scriptures in the language and culture it was written in. - Biblical Research Principals: 6th of the 7 Steps To Biblical Accuracy - To see distinctly the different nuances that a word or phrase has in it and how it was used by that culture at that time is necessary to receive an accurate translation for your understanding today in your culture. You can get to the intent of what a passage has been screaming for eons but not understood properly leaving many to guess, to go by their perceptions. And if that wasn't bad enough, there's many cases concerning the Bible where these guesses have been passed down through the generations until they are accepted as "traditional truth".

There are words in our languages today that may have been commonly used hundreds if not only decades ago that we don't use anymore. There are words and phrases in our languages today that have different meanings than it did many generations ago.  Or the definition has been changed by the way even a single generation has used it. (The word "gay" comes to mind). And so... when it comes to your personal biblical research, it really behooves you to know somewhat the language and culture of the time this revelation was received. You do realize, don't'cha? If you were given a communication to pass on to others you would have to rely on your knowledge of expression to do so. You wouldn't be able to communicate on some future reader's understanding as that... from your perspective... that future reader doesn't even know yet how he's going to communicate! Ya dig? We all communicate within the confines of our own perceptions. In our culture. In our time. This same principle comes in handy studying any historical event or biography. 

An older fella asked me the other day a question about Judas Iscariot. He's been having a hard time believing what he's read in God's Word concerning Judas' death. The conversation went kinda like this... He asked me "I have a question for you. How did Judas die? I responded (with my default answer!), "What does it say in God's Word? It say's he hung himself." That got right to the heart of his confusion. I could tell cuz his response was, "Ah ha! But it say's somewhere else his guts came out! Some one's guts don't come out when you get hung!" "Now I have a question for you," I said. "He did hang himself. So why and how did his guts come out?" This puzzled him (It puzzled him but an impact can go deeper when ya make 'em think first! lol And I could "see" he really wanted to know) but before he could answer I started to explain. (With a question of course! That's how you keep some one's mind engaged. Witnessing/teaching tip right there, no extra charge!) "What is your understanding of a hanging? To hang from the neck until dead, right?" "Right!" he says. "How does your guts come out?!" See?! He really wanted to know! "That passage" I continued, "was written a couple thousand years ago in a whole different culture. What they termed as a hanging wasn't the same to them as it is to us. To them a hanging, and you can find stories of this in the Old Testament, was a form of execution yes. But the way they hung people in those days in that culture was to impale a body from the rectum through the top of their heads, then place the bottom of the pole the victim was impaled on in a hole causing him to be lifted vertically and high enough off the ground to be seen by crowds without much strain. That was how they "hung" people. (Side note for ya here. This method later, by the time of the Messiah on earth, "evolved" into crucifixion. Less messier and more torturous!) Judas impaled himself causing his bowels to gush out. What they, at that time in that culture... considered "hanging." This fella left with a fresh way to look at God's Word. Personally, with my jarhead mentallity... I would'a phrased it "shit on a stick" but they are accurate. They hung people on a stick. (Can you imagine being hung like that in public?! "Hey Micah! Seen Jerobiah?" "Yeah man, he's hangin' out in the square but I'll tell ya... he ain't lookin' so good!")

We just uncovered one of them gold nuggets of Truth! May as well get it in your heads now. Truth does not contradict itself. All apparent contradictions in the Scriptures lie in either your understanding or in translation.

Service, even slavery can be a beautiful thing when done properly. When done according to The Word. Let's take a look at the word "servant" in the new testament. Our word translated "servant" comes from 6 completely different words in the ancient Greek, which is what the New Testament (NT) of the King James Version (KJV) of The Holy Bible was translated from. The KJV was the first version translated into English. The importance of this and the route that knowledge brings will take your journey of learning spiritual truth in a 'hole 'nuther direction I'm sure! But that will be in a future story.

The most usages of "servant" in this study is the Greek word "doulos". And it just happens to be the one I wanted to bring up! Bullinger's definition of doulos in his book, A Critical Lexicon And Concordance To The English And Greek New Testament is "a slave, one bound to serve, (from dio, to bind) one whose will and capacities are wholly at the service of another, (opp. to apeleutheros free). Our basic understanding of the word also. But! Take a look at the culture of those times. How did people fall into slavery? On the political side, being conquered by another nation and taken from your home and your family to the homeland of your conquerors to be sold or publicly executed in the victory parties. Many culture's economies, including Rome's, depended and thrived on it. On the financial side, to not pay your debt. Among the tribes of Israel, those that couldn't pay their debts were disgraced and put under slavery to the creditor for no more than 7 years. If the debtor was married and had children they went into slavery with him. The debt was also hung on the gates of the city where the elders sat, so that everyone coming and going could see your failure until it was paid off. This relationship was entered into based on the common knowledge that the creditor was  taking on the care of every need of the debtor, his wife and family. That the debtor, his wife and family would carry out any business in and was under of the protection of the creditor's name. Bankruptcy was not so sugar coated as it is today! If after the term of slavery was served, the relationship had become close and by the  consent of both parties, the slave could... by his own free will, offer the rest of his life to the master under the same arrangement. Once the master agrees the slave received a mark, branding him to his master the rest of his days. Talk about employee retention! Or! Job security! This is doulos.

Bullinger's definition concludes with, "doulos is used of the lowest scale of servitude, but when transferred to Christian service it expresses the highest devotion of one who is bound by love."

So... how does this relate to us in our serving today? With this background in mind now take a look at these verses in Romans, the foundational doctrine to the believers today. "Know ye not (Don't you know?), that to whom ye yield yourselves servants (doulos) to obey, his servants (doulos) ye are to whom ye obey: whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness. But God be thanked, that ye were (past tense) the servants (doulos) of sin, but you have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants (doulos) of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh for as ye have yielded your members servants (doulos) to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants (doulos) to righteousness unto holiness". - Romans 6:16 - 19 First things first. You, by your free will, agree to God's terms of service. To stop living your life by your own perceptions and live His way. Which is righteousness. Which is right living.

"Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants (doulos) of men".
I Corinthians 7:23 

With this knowledge of your spiritual state, that all business you conduct is in the name of your master, let's look at the foundational practice of Ephesians. "Servants (doulos), be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh (this translates today as your employer/manager), with fear (much respect) and trembling, in singleness of your heart (intensely focused), as unto Christ. (Just as you would serve Christ). Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers (ass kissers); but as the servants (doulos) of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service (douleuo; verb form) as to the Lord and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond (doulos - a slave) or free". - Ephesians 6:3 - 8 When you believe your spiritual state in Christ and choose to live life the right way (righteously) in His name and under His protection, you can put your heart into your job. We may get paid by our employers or customers but it is God that takes care of our every need according to how we live His way through His instructions we find in His rightly divided Word and believed.

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- Published 08/05/2011