Posted by: Melissa Bane Sevier | September 16, 2019

Servant and lord

I am thrilled about the new Downton Abbey film. A beautiful English period piece, the series and movie depict a time in the first half of the last century when a certain way of life is disappearing. Characters react differently to the inescapable fact that the extravagant influence of lords and ladies is slumping, or ending, in the face of changing economic and social realities. Servants aren’t exactly rising up in rebellion, but their lives are changing, too.

We Americans have a hard time understanding that particular striated society, though we have our own striations—both historically and currently. And it’s unlikely there’s ever been a society where everyone is equal, even if the law says it’s so.

In the gospels, we see evidence of those societal levels, and especially the economic effects of them.

In yet another difficult story from Jesus, we hear about a steward who is praised by the master for sleazy business practices. Jesus is making a point, but not that point. After the story Jesus condemns that same kind of action.

No servant can serve two masters; for a servant will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. [from Luke 16]

Two masters. Two lords. Which one will win our hearts, souls, minds, and pocketbooks?

Despite the boss’s praise of the steward’s underhanded dealings, Luke never leaves any doubt as to which lord – wealth or God – deserves service.

When the accumulation of wealth and possessions is our lord, every situation is an opportunity to exploit, to take, to increase the abundance we already enjoy. Accumulation invites us to divide humanity into groups of debtors, investors, or those who can do nothing to further our personal gain.

On the other hand, Jesus encourages us to view every situation as a different kind of opportunity – an opportunity to serve, to help, to share out of our abundance, to lift up. As for people, we may learn to see them as partners in life, joint members of the greater community, co-equals, even family.

We are all servants of something or someone. (Though I hope we’ve moved away from the philosophy of Downton Abbey’s dowager Countess who, when discussing whether or not servants were human, said, “Yes, but preferably only on their days off.” Yikes! And BTW, she’s my favorite character.)

Seriously, we all have ruling forces, voices, principles in our lives and work.

Which one(s) will we serve?

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© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2019

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