"COME, NOW, AND LET US REASON TOGETHER, SAYS THE LORD" (ISAIAH 1.18)
—"The one reading, be understanding!" (Mk. 13.14; Mt. 24.15)
Brief studies and devotionals designed to elucidate the meaning of Scripture, increase our faith, and enable us to draw closer to God. To learn more about this column, see: "01—The Bible Was Written To Be Understood."
Peter’s mother-in-law had become feverishly sick. Upon learning of this, the Lord grabbed “her hand, and the fever left her,” at which point “she arose and served them” (Mt. 8.15).
Often, translations, however accurately rendered, fail to do justice to the essence of the original word. That is certainly true in this case. “Served” stems from diakonéō (deacon). Literally rendered, it signifies: to kick up the dust thoroughly [because on the move]*. This vivid definition warrants several observations.
First, service requires action. Dust is “kicked up” by the feet, not the mind only (cf. Jms. 2.14-26). Second, contrary to the world’s perceptions, service is not demeaning; in Christ, it is honorable to be “on the move” for others (cf. Mt. 20.25-28; Phil. 2.3-4). Third, service should be habitual. “Served” is written in the imperfect tense, denoting: she kept serving them. Serving others allows for no “off” switch. Indeed, God remembers those who “have ministered” and “dominister” (Heb. 6.10).
May the dust of the earth learn to fear the Christian’s feet, for it shall be given no respite when a servant of the Lord is nearby (cf. Rm. 10.15; Eph. 6.15).
* See Robertson, Word Pictures, RE Mt. 20.26. Thayer and Trench specifically dispute the etymology of the word, arguing that it may instead stem from the word dioko — to hasten, or run after. In either case, the sense of being on the move for someone is implied. Trench especially demonstrates that there is a notable distinction between a diakonos (servant) and a doulos (slave), inasmuch as the diakonos "represents the servant in his activity for the work; not in his relation to a person, either as a slave (doulos) or as a freeman (therapon)" (Synonyms, 47). Hence, movement, not mere position, resides at the core of the term.