Author Lafcadio Hearn was known for his books about Japan. In particular, his collections of Japanese traditional stories and legends were very well received. One such story involved a Japanese farmer who owned a valuable rice field that covered a hilltop overlooking the sea.
As the story goes, one day an earthquake struck the area of the rice field. The farmer was working in the field at the time, and from his vantage point atop the hill he noticed that in the wake of the tremor the ocean water started withdrawing from the surrounding shoreline. He realized what this signified: a tidal wave.
The farmer knew that somehow he had to quickly get his neighbors evacuated from their low-lying homes and fields beneath him. But how? Thinking quickly, he set fire to his rice field, ran to the local temple, and rang the bell.
His neighbors, upon hearing the bell and seeing the fire and smoke, all raced up the hillside to help put out the fire. Once the fire was out, with much of the valuable field ruined, it was discovered that the farmer had deliberately started the blaze. His neighbors were furious with him for wasting his field and putting their lives in danger.
The farmer then told them to look down to the shoreline. There they saw that while they had been consumed with putting out the fire, the ocean had come crashing in upon their homes and fields. Everything beneath the hilltop was flooded, and if the farmer had not gotten the people to come to higher ground they would have been drowned by the massive wave. In an instant the farmer went from madman to hero.
Jesus said, “The greatest among will be your servant.” Oh, how this world needs servants! It needs the volunteer who will look at a situation that cries out for help, roll up his sleeves, and get to work, no matter how hard or unpleasant the work is. Think Jesus stooping down to wash the dirty, smelly feet of the chosen 12 and you’ll get the idea.
You see, the thing about being a servant is that it comes at a cost. It costs you your pride and ego. It costs you your time and energy. It costs you your ease and comfort. It might even cost you your money or reputation. It’s no wonder that the line marked “servants” is always short.
Like that Japanese farmer from lore, however, we Christians are called to be people who will make great personal sacrifices so that others may benefit. Christ’s death on the cross is our ultimate example of this. Of course, Jesus probably won’t ask you to literally follow His example by dying for others. What He will do, though, is ask you to live for them. And according to His definition, living for them means serving them, no matter what it costs you personally.