For an unprecedented 3rd day in a row the road to our condo is impassable because of ice and snow. So it was especially nice to hear these words from the 4 wheel drive Jeep owner next door: “What can I do for you?”
That question and the thought behind it got me thinking about how much of following Jesus is about helping people. We see this is in the words that Jesus first spoke to Bartimaeus (I am still pondering this same scene from the Gospels): “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
It seems like this question would have an obvious answer. What would you expect a blind man to say? From our perspective, it seems easy: A blind man would ask Jesus to take away his blindness. From Bartimaeus’ perspective, it was much different. He wasn’t accustomed to asking for miracles. He was accustomed to asking merely for spare change. And he was lucky to get that. He knew who he was; he knew his role in society. He was a castaway. Most religious people considered his blindness to be the result of God’s retribution. As the Pharisees said to the blind man in John 9, they would also have said of Bartimaeus: “You were born in sin.”
And yet, Jesus asked this outcast, “What do you want me to do for you?” It’s the same question he asked James and John a few verses earlier. This reflects Jesus’ style of leadership. It’s not defined by telling others, “This is what you can do for me.” It is defined by the question, “What can I do for you?”
Jesus calls us to be servants. “Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” (Mark 10:45) We need to understand that we are here for the benefit of others.
Politicians are often referred to as public servants; the best ones understand this role. They are elected to do the will of the people they represent. It is much the same for us. As we see in Mark 10, sometimes a line needs to be drawn: James and John made an inappropriate request, and Jesus responded by saying, “This I cannot do.” Bartimaeus, however, came to Jesus with an appropriate request — with a need that Jesus had the power to meet — and Jesus put aside everything else to take care of Bartimaeus.
As followers of Jesus we will receive both types of requests. Sometimes people come to us with requests that we cannot meet. Sometimes they ask us to pay their bills so they don’t have to work. Others come wanting our approval for a bad decision, such as an ill-advised marriage, or an ill-advised divorce, or involvement in a wrong relationship. Others come to us asking (sometimes even demanding) that we give them more than we’re able to give in the way of time and resources. When this happens, we have to answer them as Jesus answered James and John: “This we cannot do. You’re asking more than you should ask.”
However, most of the time — the overwhelming majority of the time — those who come to us ask for something we’re able to give. We must always remember that this is our calling and this is our task: we are here to serve God’s people. The question we must ask of everyone we meet, regardless of class or status is the question that Jesus asked this blind beggar on the Jericho Road: What can I do for you?
This week has been a weird one. Being snowed it is pretty unusual in Georgia. But it surely has shown me again the value of saying and hearing “What can I do for you?”. It shouldn’t take a snow storm to make us realize that this is the essence of our call. What can I do for you – spiritually, physically, emotionally, financially?
I’m afraid it is still easier for me to ask “What’s in it for me?” than “What can I do for you?” but I am resolved to do better. How about you? Do you need help meeting the needs of those you have been called to serve? Are there children who need mentoring and parents and teachers who need help training them in the way they should go? Do you want to do something about the homeless situation where you’re serving? A good start is to ask “What can I do for you?”.
Do you need help in staying encouraged? Do you need help in teaching others how to resolve conflicts peacefully, how to love one another unconditionally, how to treat one another with respect and dignity? A good start is to ask “What can I do for you?”.
God calls each of us to get involved. A good start is to ask “What can I do for you?”. Jesus calls each of us to serve those who are serving others on His behalf. The question we must ask — regardless of the distractions around us — is “What can I do for you?”
What can I do for you?