My wife’s favorite TV show is “Downton Abbey.” She’s pretty devastated that the series is now complete. One of the more compelling themes of the show is the servant-culture of workers “below the stairs.” Whenever the Crawley family needs something, they ring for Mr. Carson, the head butler, and he ensures that they get whatever they need. It strikes me that for many people today, especially teenagers, God has taken on the role of Mr. Carson. He is our butler, there to serve and provide what we want when we want it. When we have this mindset, we miss the holiness of God.
A Sense of Entitlement
Many teenagers become accustomed to being the center of their own world. Family calendars revolve around the kids’ schedules, food is purchased around the likes of a seven or five-year-old, and new vehicles are purchased to better entertain the children at all times. Even those who aren’t the center of their family are fed that message through the broader culture. The trickle-down effect leads to teenagers who believe they deserve to get what they desire.
A sense of entitlement often leads to students, and many adults, who view God as their butler. The assumption is that God exists to serve us; not the other way around.
A Vision of God’s Holiness
The holiness of God is the remedy for moments when God becomes small and people become big. If we don’t see God for who he is, and ourselves for who we are, then we distort the gospel. Salvation is a gift of pure grace; it is not deserved or owed to us. The holy love of God initiated our salvation and will see it through to completion. When students hear the gospel proclaimed, they are receiving a message about the holiness of God, their need for him, and the message of reconciliation through faith in Jesus Christ. The gospel message leaves no room for a butler-god.
“But wait,” you might say, “isn’t it true that Christ said he came ‘not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28)? Yes, Jesus came as our servant, but we need to put this truth in its biblical context.
A Sovereign Who Serves
The first chapter in John’s Gospel makes it abundantly clear that God took on flesh in Jesus Christ (John 1:14). This is the same Jesus who came to serve us. It should be obvious, then, that we have completely missed the point of the incarnation if our response is to demand that Jesus cater to our personal dreams and desires.
The holiness of God and the mystery of the incarnation should shape the way we think of Jesus as our servant. The reality that God, the Holy One, emptied himself and took on the nature of a servant (Philippians 2:7) and gave his life “as a ransom” (Matthew 20:28) is shocking and humbling. Christ serves us solely because of his grace, not because we deserve it. This is the message our teenagers—and we—need to hear. Christ is not a butler for the selfish, but rather a Savior for the needy.