October 7, 2010
by Patrick Lafferty
...but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant. . . .
Remember the commotion that erupted several years ago about the new trend in business called “outsourcing”? As a cost-cutting measure, more companies were tapping into cheaper overseas labor to perform jobs that Americans had done previously but only on a higher pay scale. So thousands upon thousands of jobs were fleeing to far away locales, to the chagrin of many. For some it became no less than moral tragedy that companies should adopt such a practice just to improve their bottom line. The upheaval over the hemorrhaging of American jobs even made it into the planks of some presidential campaign platforms.
However, with global economics now having far greater problems than the outsourcing of jobs, we don’t hear much about it anymore. But its essence remains very much a part of contemporary debate. Who would deny that much of what drives the American immigration imbroglio is the attraction of paying workers to do jobs many Americans aren’t willing to do—even if it means employing those who aren’t in the country legally?
What’s happened on the multinational and national levels is emblematic of the modern urge to reallocate responsibility in order to recapture time for ostensibly more important things. Just as we like our labor-saving devices, so we like the idea of letting (or employing) others do for us what we find tedious, or at least not as gratifying. But while there may be no harm in opting for a lawnmower instead of a scythe, the tendency to offload responsibilities—our individualized form of outsourcing—has trickled down into our responsibilities of love, which ends up costing us more than we thought it would save. What do I mean?
We’ve outsourced to Hallmark, for instance, the work of finding a few appreciative words for one we love. We let expensive gifts bear the weight of love rather than uninterrupted, undistracted time. As it relates to the spiritual nurture of our children, how often are we tempted to “let the professionals take care of it”—despite the vow we made, “in humble reliance upon divine grace, . . .that [we] will strive, by all means of God’s appointment to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?” (PCA Book of Church Order, 56-5) Though others might be more capable or have greater aptitude, our efforts, however stumbling or awkward they might be, shout greater love than even the most polished offering.
When we think of the gospel, we recognize that there was no alternative to Jesus and His sacrifice—His work could not be outsourced. We could look to no one else to be a sufficient offering for the sin of those He came to save; our God would be satisfied by nothing less. Furthermore, we could find no one else who loved us to the same degree—who would be willing to submit Himself entirely for us. No stronger love resided elsewhere. If we would be reconciled to God, we had no one else to turn to but Jesus for His singular work.
That Jesus could not outsource His work has implications for the pattern He set for us. We sacrifice His joy to the degree we outsource serving others with His love. Yes, the work of a servant is often tedious and tiresome. Its results often go unnoticed and unheralded. The time it takes to serve another in love could indeed be used in a variety of other ways, but what we might capture, in the end, is nothing compared to what we receive by following in His steps. “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (Jn 10:10)
What responsibilities of love have you unwittingly (or wittingly) outsourced for the sake of convenience? How might taking His yoke upon you (Lk 11:28-30) in service to His work actually recapture what is more precious?