As servants in the Kingdom of God it’s easy to be overwhelmed. We are given much to do, and often it seems little strength to do it. Micah tells us “what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Well, it’s easy to love kindness as long as it’s directed at us. It’s a lot harder to love kindness enough to show it when we’re angry or feel attacked. And we may serve those around us, feeling that in making ourselves last we make ourselves humble, but we are so quick to judge others as inferior to us. And justice? Some days we mix it up with vengeance, and other days we may not see it at all. When someone asks if we’d like a cup of coffee, do we stop to ask if the people who grew that coffee were paid a fair price for their work? Are we just when we accept?
James, the brother of Jesus, was called “James the Just” and he tells us that “religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” We cannot walk down a street nor drive to town without seeing someone who is in need of care. As servants in the kingdom, our call is to care for them, but so often their need scares us, overwhelms us, and we make ourselves blind to it.
There is so much we are called to do, and so little with which to do it. Christ is the savior of the world, and in following Him we can so easily convince ourselves that we too must save the world.
Is this what the Kingdom of God does to us? Does the call to serve the world merely drag us down into our own hopelessness?
There is a story that teaches us about the Kingdom, and our places in it. In Matthew, Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to
a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
The Kingdom calls us to service, and it keeps calling. Some respond to the call at dawn, and others at day’s end, but all who respond do the Kingdom’s work and are equals within it. Some hear the call to run a food bank, while others hear the call to offer someone part of their lunch. Some hear the call to be a counselor, while others hear the call to console their friend. Some give vast amounts of money to charity, while others spend a weekend helping build a house for someone who needs it. None of us can respond to every call of the Kingdom of God, but all of us can respond to our calls.
We cannot save the world, but each of us can listen for and respond to our call, and when we do we step fully into the Kingdom. None of us are the perfect servants, but all can serve, and in the Kingdom, all service is good. All servants are the same. Do not be overwhelmed by all of the world’s sorrows when you are called to serve. Whether you respond at dawn or at dusk, you step into the Kingdom of God by simply responding. Just as we ask God to “give us this day our daily bread,” and no more, all God asks of us is that we give this day our daily work. Tomorrow’s call is tomorrow. Let us serve today.