Those who travel first class on the path of righteousness

“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

As a college student, I worked weekends for the Pullman Company, the people who operated the sleeper cars on passenger trains.  It used to fascinate me how people who wished to travel by Pullman had to pay through the nose.

First, their standard ticket had to be upgraded to first class.  This means they were paying extra for the privilege of renting space in the sleeper car.  Then, they paid for the suite or roomette.

I wondered if they did not know the company was sticking it to them. (I believe this three-tiered system is still the custom on Amtrak.)

When I began traveling by plane, I was amazed to see people paying astronomical fares for first class.  Same plane, a little more legroom, coffee in a china cup instead of Styrofoam, and get to deplane first. That was about it.  A status thing? I imagine so.

In the Texas of the 1800s, the stagecoach lines had three levels of tickets: first, second, and third class.  This had nothing to do with where you sat, the food you ate, or when you disembarked.  It involved what you did when the coach got into trouble.

The roads were rough and undependable, and the hills were steep.  When a coach stalled, the first class passengers stayed on board.  Second class riders got out and walked.  Third class ticket-buyers had to get behind the coach and push or help dig out the wheels when they were stuck in the mud.

In a sermon, Dr. John Claypool said, “The Lord Jesus reversed the categories man had established.  The ones who get out and push? They are truly first class.”

Our Lord said, “Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 20:26).

He said, “Who is greater–the one who sits at the table or the person serving him?  Is it not he who sits at the table?  Yet, I am among you as the One who serves” (Luke 22:27).

The Apostle Paul called himself a bond-servant or slave of the Lord Jesus.  He said we preachers “do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5).

Jesus said, “If I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you ought also to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14)

The word transliterated as “deacon” is diakonos, the typical word for servant.  The prefix dia means “through” (diagonal, diameter, etc.) and konos means “dust.” “Through the dust” suggests that these workers were willing to get dirty to carry out their assignments.  So, we might say deacons were chosen by the church to do the dirty work.

Are the deacons the only ones going first-class in the church?  They are if no one else is serving.  But anyone and everyone devoting themselves to serving–to getting out and pushing when the coach gets stuck–these are the truly first-class members.

Just before I was to preach, the choir sang a musical number with a guest soloist, an older fellow.  As the music ended and I was about to walk to the platform, the singer abruptly toppled off the stool where he had been sitting, with some kind of seizure.

Immediately, a half dozen people in the congregation converged on the scene. While the rest of us sat frozen in place, these people–a policeman, a firefighter, a nurse, and a couple of deacons–ran to the man and took care of him.

True servants take care of difficult situations.  Everyone else stands back in shock. Some may even say, “This is not my job.” But the servant-minded among us step up and take charge. This is their calling.

O Lord, make me a servant, one like the Master.

The blind beggar of Jericho kept calling for Jesus to have mercy on him. He had been told that “Jesus of Nazareth is coming this way.”  As our Lord moved into earshot and heard the man, He commanded that he be brought to Him.  The disciples helped Bartimaeus to his feet and led him down the road, stopping in front of Jesus.  Then, our Lord asked the man the question every servant asks a thousand times as a part of his/her assignment:

“What can I do for you?”  (Luke 18:41)

It’s the mantra of a servant.  “How can I help?”  “What do you need?” “Anyone need anything here?”

They say the best way to know whether you have a servant spirit is how you act when someone treats you like a servant.

It pains the Lord, surely, when His servants the ministers and pastors of His churches live as royalty and expect people to cater to their needs.  No matter the size of their congregation or the demands of their ministries, there is no excuse for such. The One who is our Role Model in everything said, “I am among you as One who serves.”  And “The Son of Man did not come to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Jesus came first class.

God help me do the same.

We do well to remember that just as going first class on a train or in a jetliner costs extra, so with those who would travel first class in the Kingdom.

Servanthood is costly.

Which probably explains why some do not choose to travel this way.  The price was just more than they were willing to pay.



1 thought on “Those who travel first class on the path of righteousness

  1. We ( wife and I ) have been in the Christian ministry since 1965 and many of these points you wrote about are so true! I would like to add two more if I may and you can comment on them publicly if you want. First, we provide Sunday school classes for all ages that start at a certain time (8:30am, 9am, etc.) ,we provide the materials, a furnished room, and a teacher and yet because its “church” and free, people think they can habitually come in late, even as much as a half hour late! In addition, many feel they do not have to show up every week! Such is the commitment in American churches these days! Where else in our society would a person do that?

    Secondly, I preach on missions and someone comes up afterward and says “I don’t think I need to go to Africa to be a missionary”! Two things, first I had said absolutely nothing about going to Africa! Secondly, I was challenging the people to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. No one was even talking about going anywhere to be a missionary! Why are Christians so offended when someone talks about world missions these days? God bless you

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