Fat Cows Or Foot Washers?

fat cows

In the 8th century B.C., there was a prophet named Amos. Of his own admission, he had no particular prominence in the world (Amos 7:14)…he was essentially just a blue collar guy whom the Lord called out, placing on him a burning message. That message was a message of judgement. This was during the time period called “The Divided Kingdom,” when Israel was the Northern Kingdom and Judah the southern. He was sent to the Northern Kingdom and told to call them out for their sin and let them know of the ensuing subsequent judgment. They were guilty of many things but there seems to be one root problem…and it is a problem that is alive and well within our modern culture as well. The people had given in to the self-centered tendencies of human nature and had become very indulgent. When I say indulgent, I’m not necessarily referring to food, although that is somewhat symptomatic of the deeper and more systemic problem. To cut to the chase, in 4:1, Amos calls the women “cows of Bashan.” Bashan was a place rich with resources in which the cattle would become “fat and happy.” He goes on to speak in the same verse about how they constantly want to be served…and catered unto…and spoiled…and this was followed by a host of other injustices.

I was doing some work for a friend some years ago, helping him with his cattle. We drove up into the pasture in his truck and they came running…and I asked him why they would come running after this enormous monstrosity of machinery but would be scared by someone that is probably less than a quarter of their size when approached. He said that they had become accustomed to being fed every time they saw his truck coming. Interesting to note that they were eating already when we pulled into the field…and none of them were skinny…and that is the nature of cattle. Frankly, I’m glad because I love beef, but there is a sad reality in the metaphor that Amos used when he compared human beings to cattle…the metaphor of consumerism.

What is consumerism? Google the word and you will find this definition: “The preoccupation of society with the acquisition of consumer goods.” Essentially what this means is that we love “stuff,” and we love getting “stuff.” We love to hoard, and we love to be served. We love to be pampered and we love to be spoiled. We love to answer the question of “what’s in it for me?” It’s not wrong to want some things…nor is it wrong to receive things. What’s wrong is when we are driven by the desires to be served and catered to…because it seems to me, based on a reading of the Bible (specifically the life of Jesus), that God’s design for us is to put others first and to want to serve them. This is the essence of love.

Of the many problems contemporary Christianity faces, the insidious evil of consumer-driven thinking has got to be in the top five. The reason it’s a problem is that just as stated above, it doesn’t seem to be the way Jesus lived…and His life is our greatest example by which we should live. We see this lived out and illustrated by the attitudes and actions of many church attenders. I’ve had many conversations with people that were leaving their churches or were simply unhappy/dissatisfied with their church. The majority of the time their reasons are about what they do or don’t “get” from the church. I’ve NEVER had anyone tell me that they are leaving a church because there was no other way they could serve…that they had reached their potential for service… and they were seeking to go elsewhere to serve. Instead…they come running up to the “truck” of consumption that will provide them with what they wanted. As a pastor…one might hope that I would be exempt from this issue, but I have to admit that I’ve been so guilty of looking at my church in terms of self-serving agendas…it’s a difficult thing to admit, but true…and that’s a huge part of the church’s problem…because I think that people tend to mimic those in authority over them.

In John 13 there’s the very familiar story of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. I don’t want to go into a lengthy explanation of this, except to say that He was a Rabbi and this was the job of the lowliest of household slaves. However, they were in a borrowed room, and there was no one there to perform this duty…no official slave or servant…and it was a very important task that needed to be carried out. None of the blue-collar disciples would even lower themselves to this task…and we may ask, “Why?” Perhaps the reason is that just like the rest of us, they were too busy waiting to be served and not thinking at all about how they could serve…and then their Master…a Rabbi…a great Teacher…and actually the Son of God…picks up the implements and exemplifies what this is all about. He serves…He serves in the most lowly of jobs and He does it because He loves them, sees the need, and is leading by example.

So, consider with me for just a moment…in the modern church, are we fat cows or are we foot washers? Are we looking to be served or are we looking for opportunities to serve? Imagine how much it would straighten out the paradigms of our local churches if we put our energies into following the Rabbi instead of the feed-wagon. Imagine the impact on the reputation of the Body of Christ if the unbelieving culture around us saw that we cared and truly wanted to serve them in whatever way we could…

Just imagine.

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*Image taken from: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_VzeYo3lwyXY/SjAW1uyxOkI/AAAAAAAAAGA/b4wramcuwwM/w1200-h630-p-nu/fat+cows.jpg

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10 comments on “Fat Cows Or Foot Washers?

  1. Shane says:

    As time has passed I’ve found that serving in the “church” or “body” has actually become harder. There always has to be a committee or vote on everything. I never saw Jesus pass an idea around for vote amongst the diciples or the synagogue. I think people are more willing to serve than it seems it just always seems to be filtered. Leadership and processes have there place but let’s try to be a little more spontaneous.

    • steve c. says:

      It is agreed that we tend to over-complicate things with governance issues but at the same time those systems are put in place to safeguard against abuse of power or authority. These systems could stand an overhaul but they are a start. However, by and large, this has not been the root of the problem that I’ve experienced. The overarching problem I’ve observed is that people are just plain self-centered and along the same lines, the ones that complain the most about the way things are rarely actually step in to do their part in serving to improve the Bride. They would rather criticize than be part of the solution…and God knows I’ve absolutely done my part in that.

      • Shane says:

        Power and authority are just about always abused. Church laws and rules are generally self-serving. Like I said, these thing have there place but reality shows they complicated the very gospel itself and are very discouraging to people trying to live out God’s direction for their life. This isn’t always smooth or safe, but when is life itself smooth or safe. We’ve turned the church into a fortress keeping out sinful invaders and grieved the Holy Spirit to silence. All in the name of “safety” and “orderly service” and “membership”. I hope we’re walking in as much truth as we think we are.

        • steve c. says:

          I think you raise some valid points but I would not agree with a blanket statement applying those points to the entirety of the church. Many of our churches, traditional and contemporary alike, are truly following the Holy Spirits guidance. Also, many are self-serving. I would be reluctant to throw the baby out with the bath water and rubber stamp all churches as abusive, oppressive, and/or non-Spiritual. I think we have in the past retreated into our buildings and subcultures, afraid to be “stained by the world.” There are a multitude of reasons for this that we don’t have time to go into, and not all of them are from the perspective of the church being wrong. However, I see that trend changing and I’m excited to be a part it. We are starting to see that we need to be out in the world, engaging and sharing our faith…something that myself and almost a dozen others from our church just came home from doing downtown. A lot of us (the church) are getting a lot of it wrong…but if we are doing all we can to be true to the spirit of love in Christ then I think there’s a lot of grace to be given.

  2. Jerry says:

    Steve,

    Good thoughts. I’m always excited when I see Christians step up to serve in times of crisis. I’m hearing stories daily of believers serving in places like Boston after the marathon and in Texas after the tornadoes. Perhaps what we need to realize is that our world is always in crisis–sometimes it’s more obvious than others. I would agree wholeheartedly that service is the antidote to consumerism. When we’re busy serving others, it tends to take the focus off of ourselves.

  3. Bob Moon says:

    Steve, perhaps your best work yet. Keep them coming.

  4. Jay DePoy says:

    I love you brother.

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