By Robert Wilkerson
“Do you want me to get the pans out?” the old deacon asked the young preacher. “Pans. What would I need pans for?” the preacher asked.
“Well, some people in this church like to wash feet,” he said. The preacher answered, “Just leave them where they are and if anyone asks for one—give it to them.”
The practice of washing feet in church has been abandoned by most churches. Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, not to give them a ritual for worship, but to set an example for them in Christ-like living.
A little historical background will help us understand what He did and why. In Jesus’ day, there were no paved roads, no sidewalks and no public transportation. People walked on dusty, dirty roads and paths everywhere they went. The only shoes they had were sandals. Therefore, having dirty feet was a regular occurrence.
Households had slaves. The lowest slave in the household had the job of washing everyone’s feet that entered the house. When Jesus took a towel and water and washed His disciples’ feet, he was setting an example of humility for them. Humility means not thinking yourself to be better than others do, or too good to do a certain job, or too good to meet someone’s needs. It is a servant spirit. Paul speaks of humility when he writes, “Let each esteem the other better than himself” (Philippians 2:3), “In honor preferring one another” (Romans 12:10). Humility is the opposite of pride. One old-time foot washer said, “I’m proud that I am humble enough to wash feet.” Sorry, but when we’re proud that we’re humble—we’re not
We need to ask ourselves, how humble are we? Do we think we are better than others are? Do we think we are too good to do certain work? Do we think we’re too good to help people in need? Perhaps we should reconsider based on God’s word.
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
I could use a little more grace—couldn’t you?
Dr. Robert Wilkerson is a minister, writer, and founder of People For the Christian Way, an organization whose mission is to encourage all people to practice Christian principles in business, politics, and every area of life.