In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Have you read The Help by Kathryn Stockett? It’s true-to-life stories of black maids working for white families in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960’s. All the time I was reading this novel, I had memories of Viola, my grandmother’s long-time maid. I was too young and too naïve to see what was really going on in the Schnebly household in Champaign, Illinois in the 50’s and 60’s.
Reading this book opened my eyes. Viola was jolly, she was a good cook, and she was friendly. But she had “her place.” She was my grandmother’s servant. Viola had to do the things Grandma didn’t want to do, and her role was to make Grandma’s life easier. No doubt Grandma thought she was doing Viola a good turn by giving her a job. But there was no equality.
Viola would wash and iron Grandma’s clothes, so she would be well-heeled for church on Sunday. Grandma would sit in the pew, while Viola made Sunday dinner – something really yummy, to be sure. A ring of the buzzer (installed under the carpet at the dining room table) and Viola would clear the dishes to bring out the next course. My grandmother wouldn’t let my sisters or me help her … that wasn’t “our place.”
Viola was a servant – not by choice – but by circumstance. She had to do what she did. Jesus, also, was a servant. He made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
Verse 5 says our attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. The verses preceding today’s reading help define that attitude: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
If we really lived those verses, would three little girls not help Viola in the kitchen? Could Viola’s family sup with us? Would we sit in church together, then all join forces to prepare a meal? Imagine the possibilities!