One of the common denominators of greatness in our modern world is a stint waiting tables. Famous and prominent people from all walks of life, from CEOs to Hollywood celebs, learned and honed many of the skills needed to achieve success in their fields while working as waiters. Actor Jon Hamm commented about lessons learned from waiting tables in a recent interview.
“It’s important to know how to treat people, and to learn how to respond when someone you’re working with is having a bad day … Understanding other people’s problems is the cornerstone of the service industry, and it’s essential as an actor. Or whatever field you’re in.”
And startup CEO, Jason Wesbecher, writing in Entrepreneur, noted.
“Being a CEO is … about embracing the unpredictable each day and soldiering through the chaos. Which, upon reflection, reminded me precisely of my days waiting tables. As it turns out, there are a number of similarities between the two jobs…. Being a start-up CEO is first and foremost about people. Evaluating them, motivating them, reading them. The four major constituencies that you must serve to be successful in this role are your employees, your customers, your investors and your family. If you can’t engender trust and excitement across each one of these groups, it’s only a matter of time before you are an ex-CEO. Waiting tables isn’t any different. Waiters aren’t in the food business; they’re in the people business. They have to read the body language of each table to figure out who wants to engage in a dialogue and who wants to be left to their conversation. They have to be prepared to instantly reinvent themselves every few feet as they move to the next table.”
But long before these modern-day success stories, the greatest authority on leadership the world has ever known, Jesus Christ, expressed this same truth pointedly with his followers when they were arguing about greatness.
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28
The word Jesus used to describe those who serve was later used to describe men appointed in the church to serve the physical needs of those inside and outside the church membership. These men were called deacons. When they were first appointed in the early church in Acts 6, the apostles noted that they were men “of good repute and full of the Holy Spirit,” but they were chosen to “wait on tables” by distributing food to the poor in Jerusalem. They were “waiters’ who were not in the “food business, but in the people business,” meeting the physical needs of people in a spiritual way.
Like any parent, however, God is concerned about the integrity and reliability of those who care for his children. God’s word sets standards for the character and faithfulness of men who are to wait on the tables of His children. Join us this Lord’s Day, January 20, as we examine 1 Timothy 3:8-13 and consider what type of men God calls to wait tables among people inside and outside the church.