A tree precariously dangled over the very spot where the fish seemed to be struggling. At considerable risk to himself, the monkey moved far out on a limb, reached down and snatched the fish from the threatening waters. Immediately scurrying back to the safety of his shelter, he carefully laid the fish on dry ground.
For a few moments the fish showed excitement, but soon settled into a peaceful rest. Joy and satisfaction swelled inside the monkey. He had successfully helped another creature.
Even though the monkey may have had good intentions, it was arrogant for the monkey to act on the belief that what was good for monkeys would also be good for fish. In cross-cultural ministry, good intentions are not enough because it is our actions that become the basis for others' impression of us. That is why it is so vital for cross-cultural ministry workers to learn the local cultural patterns so that our desire to serve will be seen as serving and not be misinterpreted.
I have to admit that all too often, I have unwittingly played the part of the monkey.
A true humility is what is needed to keep one from becoming like the monkey...a proper perspective of the holy God we serve brings a proper perspective of self - defined by lowliness of mind, gentleness of spirit and meekness of attitude. And one must always remember that while humility is mandated, its expression is always culturally defined.
In many cases, it could be that missionaries don't actually have an attitude problem and yet are still charged with communicating superiority for another reason: cultural misinterpretation. When we are inclined to serve others from our own frame of reference, it is often perceived as superiority or racism. True servanthood must be a conscious effort to choose one direction and one set of values over another. The Bible has given us a model of true servanthood in Christ, but we must follow him in his humble servant role, not in his Lord and Christ roles.
If you have any encouragement
from being united with Christ,
if any comfort from his love,
if any fellowship with the Spirit,
if any tenderness and compassion,
then make my joy complete by being likeminded,
having the same love,
being one in spirit and purpose.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit,
but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
Each of you should look not only
to your own interests,
but also to the interests of others.
...All of you, clothe yourselves with humility
toward one another, because,
"God opposes the proud,
but gives grace to the humble."
I Peter 5:5
"If you ask me what is the first precept
of the Christian religion,
I will answer first, second and third, Humility."
"Humility is the garden of all the virtues."
"If anyone would like to acquire humility,
I can, I think, tell him the first step.
The first step is to realize that one is proud.
And a biggish step, too.
At least, nothing whatever can be done before it.
If you think you are not conceited,
it means you are very conceited indeed."
C. S. Lewis
**The Monkey "Serves" the Fish and other information and quotes taken from the book Cross-Cultural Servanthood: Serving the World in Christlike Humility by Duane Elmer