Serving God in a Lowly Position

Johannes Quasten, Patrology, vol. I: The Beginnings of Patristic Literature, from the Apostle’s Creed to Irenaeus (Westminster: Christian Classics, 1983) 48.

The following is a quote about Clement of Rome’s Epistle to the Corinthians, which was written in the late first century C.E.

The Epistle points to a clear distinction between hierarchy and laity. After explaining the various divisions of the Old Testament hierarchy the author adds: ‘the layman is bound by the rules laid down for the laity’ (40, 5). And then he draws the following conclusion: ‘Each of us, brethren, must in his own place endeavor to please God with a good conscience, reverently taking care not to deviate from the established rule of service…’ (41, 1).

This quote may be a turn-off to people who dislike organized religion, or who have come out of a cult, such as Armstrongism, that emphasizes predictable (often dead) liturgy, obedience to an authoritarian hierarchy, and not much role for the laity but “pay and pray for the work.” But, here, I want to discuss something positive that I got out of the quote.

What resonates with me is the part about serving God wherever you are, even when it’s in a lowly position. At my AA meeting today, we read the chapter in the Big Book entitled “More about Alcoholism” (which, incidentally, I also read at my AA meeting yesterday). In it, we encounter a man who’s upset because he’s working for someone else in the company that he himself started. So he gets drunk.

A priest at the meeting said that the man didn’t have much humility. He then told about his own experiences in his Catholic order, in which priests are promoted and demoted all of the time. He said he got a certificate thanking him for his years of service, before saying at the very bottom that he’s been demoted to a lower position. The priest told us that he and others in his order get a big laugh out of this, for what’s important is not how high or low they are on the totem pole, but rather their service to God and their fellow human beings–wherever they may find themselves.

My mind turned to something I read in Lawson Stone’s blog, Stone’s Fence, about how Protestants once viewed work as a calling, a place where the Christian could glorify God–as a hardworking blacksmith, or cabinet-maker, or whatever he may be. One can be hardworking and friendly anywhere, and that’s how one glorifies God. When I was at DePauw, an Intervarsity speaker told us that one way we can witness is by being good students. That spoke to me at the time, although there were plenty of Christians who acted as if I should be “reaching out” to people, according to their standards of socialization.

I myself need a dose of humility, and perhaps working can provide me with that, especially if it’s at McDonald’s or as a bus-boy in a restaurant. At the same time, I’m not too eager to do mind-numbing work for eight hours straight.

Another thought: it’s a challenge to embrace being in a lowly position, especially when others assume that I should think badly of myself for being in that lowly position. Not that I have a job right now. This is just a thought I have.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
This entry was posted in Alcoholism, Life, Religion. Bookmark the permalink.