Saturday, May 24, 2008

Servant & Steward: I Cor 4:1,2

Servant is such an old-school word. Who has "servants" anymore? In our democratic, class-less society we have staff, household help, associates, partners, team-mates, co-laborers, and many other more equitable terms for workers. Servant or Slave is just not done, not here in the USA nor in most of the world today. When it is used, we are horrified and enraged. Sweat-shops and human-slavery are rightly huge new crusades for the cause of compassion, mercy and justice.
Yet, Paul calls himself a "servant of Christ" in I Cor 4:1. The word he used is not "doulos" that is used most commonly for servant/slave, but "hupo-eretes" or military officer, and most accurately, under-rower on a navy ship. It is a term, by definition that is unattractive and brutal. But the point Paul makes in this term to identify himself is that there is one who is totally in control, setting the cadence for life and direction for ministry; Jesus the captain. At a time when Paul could appeal to his own personal authority and track record of professional success, he instead appeals to a role of under-rower beneath the deck of a fighting ship.
Then as under-rower, he adds the term servant or "oikonomos" the one who keeps the household and has the keys to all the doors and all the treasures. Only the trusted, battle-tested servants have access to the keys. The altar-piece we use boldly sets an oar across the table with a key on top of the opened Bible. May our servanthood unlock the treasures and may the treasures point us toward greater servanthood.


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