If Jesus was in the green room, he’d be cleaning the brushes. He would be there in the back, unseen, unnamed on the credits, changing the world one make up brush at a time!
“Do not think of yourselves more highly than you ought…but with sober judgement” (Romans 12: 3)
“It’s not fair!” my daughter’s complaint echoed down the phone line in despair.
As a student make up artist on location with ‘real’ actors, she had been tasked with applying actors’ primary make up, and spending long hours on stand by in the “green room” where cast and crew relaxed between scenes. Thorough about her work, she understood her place and that her role was to apply and touch up make up where needed, and to clean the station and kits in between applications.
On a team of four students, given this opportunity to work with other students and industry professionals, she was excited to finally be putting her training into practice. Her team leader however, (a student with the same level of training), had other ideas. While teams were supposed to switch roles around each day to give all students an opportunity to experience being on set as well as behind the scenes, it seems ego had taken a grip on the key make up assistant, who failed to share the roles equally, keeping the other students firmly in the back room whilst awarding herself all the set privileges. After three days of make up application at the start of the day, followed by 12 hours of cleaning brushes (and both her own and everyone else’s kits, as make up was re-applied by others during the day), my daughter was feeling the disappointment. It was tedious and was beginning to feel like a waste of time. Her heart longed to be allowed on set just once, to see how the make up she had applied to the actors looked on the monitor. Her voice was tinged with sadness.
“Just once I wanted to see my work on the screen.”
I felt her disappointment but reminded her that no task is too menial and that her role was equally important. Without her make up application in the first place, and without her conscientious cleaning of all the equipment to ensure hygiene and professionalism, the filming would not run smoothly.
“If Jesus was in the green room, he’d be cleaning the brushes,” I told her. “He would be there in the back, unseen, unnamed on the credits, changing the world one make up brush at a time!”
I reminded her that our heavenly King was not averse to humble work. He was the King who took on the most menial of tasks when he knelt and washed his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper (John 13: 1-17), a job that was considered so lowly that Jewish servants were not even expected to do it (usually gentile slaves were given the job). Yet Jesus himself knelt and took on the role in a genuine expression of humility, not only offering dignity to his disciples, but affirming that he had come to serve, not to be served (Matthew 20:28). His ultimate act of service shortly after being the selfless surrender of his own life on our behalf.
Jesus made it clear that nobody is above another in God’s Kingdom. To truly follow him, we must humble ourselves and be willing to perform even the lowliest of jobs selflessly, not for earthly recognition, or for glory for ourselves, but to show the world his character and to demonstrate that he is worthy of our service, especially when we are able to serve those who cannot give us anything in return. Mother Teresa, who devoted herself to caring for the poor and the sick, saw Jesus in every person she cared for. She saw all those to whom she ministered as important and dignified individuals. When asked how she could honour dignity in such difficult circumstances in the slums of Calcutta, she would grasp the hand of the enquirer, wiggle each finger slowly and say “You-did-it-to-me”, reflecting Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:40 (“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”) For Mother Teresa, the gospel could be summed up in those five words! In every suffering person she helped, in the destitute and dying, she saw “Jesus in distressing disguise.”
It is only when we lose our pride that we can be truly humble and joyfully embrace the lowest position or task for our Lord. Pride is ugly. As Bible teacher Zac Poonen says, “Sin came into the universe when an angel became proud.” Satan was cast out of heaven when he declared himself equal with God (Ezekiel 28:12-15; Isaiah 14:12-15).
Pride pursues advancement, disregards the advice and authority of others, craves affirmation, recognition and glory for self. Pride refuses to perform certain tasks, criticizes others and makes fun of others, offering disparaging remarks as a joke or as a question. Pride talks about self, has the need to teach others and feels that it is better than most, especially those who are less fortunate. Pride justifies its failings instead of acknowledging and confessing them. Sometimes pride is kept to oneself but still harboured in the heart. Pride is something we all struggle with in various forms.
The apostle Paul said to not think of ourselves more highly than we ought but rather with sober judgement (Romans 12:3) which means being aware of our own fallen nature. If we consider others’ sin to be worse or more detestable than ours, we are not really recognizing our own sin! Only when we see our sin for what it is and recognize that “all have sinned and fallen short of God’s grace” (Romans 3:23 italics mine) will we be able to find true humility and an appreciation of God’s incredible grace towards us, therefore serving others just as he has loved, served and extended grace to us! Dwight L Moody said it well when he said that ..”love and humility are the highest attainments in the school of Christ and the brightest evidences that he is indeed our Master.”
Dealing with pride is work for which we need God’s help, which why the Bible says to “humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God” (James 4:10, 1 Peter 5:6). God has grace for the humble (James 4:6) but absolutely opposes pride. I know in my own life that when even a hint of pride seeps in to my thoughts or words, God stamps on it immediately! He hates pride!
It is human nature to be proud, and this is not helped by the psychological self esteem movement that appears to have gripped our current culture. Life coaches and therapists encourage self promotion and asserting one’s strengths and good deeds. Somehow, we have come to believe that we have more significance if we can isolate skills and strengths we possess that may be better than others, and draw our worth from those! While it is good to acknowledge our God given gifts and skills, there is a balance to be found in this area for sure! Jesus offers a sober reminder: “Everyone that exalts himself will be humbled and he that humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11) He does not want us to be proud, or to think that we are more important than others.
True humility and service occurs when we can lay aside our own comfort and place the needs of others first (even if it means sitting in a green room for 13 hours!) Whatever we do, we are to work at it with all our heart, “as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Colossians 3:23-24)
If our motive is truly to serve him, then what others think, say or do won’t matter, and we won’t mind being inconvenienced in our service. It won’t be a waste of time. Perhaps we should even expect to be inconvenienced or uncomfortable in our service, as my daughter was for those long hours. Are we prepared to do the menial work only if we are treated well for doing it? Are we only willing to do it on our own terms and not God’s? Are we prepared to serve without complaining? If not, perhaps our heart needs an adjustment. Perhaps we need to remember that Jesus was inconvenienced on our behalf to the point of death! Yet he empowers us to be humble through his Spirit. One commentator said that we can be “nothing” for Christ because he is “everything” for us. We can “go low” for Christ because in him we are eternally rich!
I love the following quote by Martin Luther King Jr.
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
So, let’s take up the foot washing bowl or the make up brush cleaner and do the work assigned by our Lord and King, because he sees and he notices! Jesus promised that the Father who “sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:4)
The sixth century monk, St John Climacus, once said “Humility is the only thing that no devil can imitate”!
As for my daughter, she was awarded a good grade for her work and earned recognition from the production’s director. She has been told that next term, she will be one of the key make up artists on set. She has a bracelet she likes to wear which reminds her to be “hopeful in life’s valleys” and “humble on the mountain tops”. Perhaps a lesson for us all.
PRAYER: Father God, thank you that you humbled yourself to serve us, even unto death. Help us to lay down our pride so that we too can embrace whatever station or task you give us as we seek to love and serve others as you have done for us. Help us to do it with dignity and to see dignity in those we serve. We pray that love and humility will be clearly evident within us so that the world will see that you are indeed our Master. Whatever you have given us to do, may we do it with all our heart, and to do it well. Help us never to complain or feel inconvenienced in the work of advancing your Kingdom! In Jesus Name we pray, Amen.