Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Spoon or a Ladle?

Would you rather use a spoon or a ladle?

An odd question, I understand. Tools, whether found in the carpenter’s wood shop, the mechanic’s garage, or the chef’s kitchen, are designed to serve specific functions. And so I should probably expect you to respond with, “That depends on what I’m using it for.”

True, true. And yet that response doesn’t really answer my question, which is intended to elicit a gut-reaction; a knee-jerk response; a word-association type flash of the subconscious mind that wants a spoon, that wants a ladle. All things being equal, and without considering the circumstances, would you rather use a spoon or a ladle?

There is something comforting about a spoon. Maybe it’s the smooth contours, the way it goes into the mouth without concern for safety (although not all spoons are created equal in this regard. Haven’t we all noticed that the plastic spoons they give you at Wendy’s are too deep? You either have to pull it out of your mouth with an upward flourish, or contort your upper lip to ensure that it comes out clean! But I digress…). Maybe a spoon brings to mind the comfort foods that require one: hearty winter soups and chilis, Cream of Wheat or oatmeal, ice cream.

Ladles are something altogether different, aren’t they? Well… unless one realizes that a ladle is just an oversized spoon with a wonky handle. But a ladle is a different tool for a different purpose. We don’t eat our Cap’n Crunch with a ladle (if you do, it’s a sure sign that it’s been entirely too long since you last washed the dishes). A ladle is what we reach for when the soup is hot and ready to serve; when the throat is parched, and punch is in order.

The spoon is a tool used to consume. The ladle is a tool used to serve. Would you rather use a spoon or a ladle?

Jesus said, “Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good portion—packed down, firmly shaken, and overflowing—will fall into your lap. The portion you give will determine the portion you receive in return” (Luke 6:37-38, CEB). It is interesting that Jesus contrasts judgment and condemnation with giving. Rather than judge our neighbor, rather than condemn her, Christ calls us to serve her. And not just half-heartedly, like someone who gives a cup of flour but cheats on the volume; but like one who packs it in, shakes it down, and allows the flour to spill over the edge of the scoop. 

Or to use another analogy, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good portion—where the ladle digs deep from the heartiness at the bottom of the pot, rather than a ladle of thin broth from off the top—will be served into your bowl.”

A spoon is used to consume. It is what we use to bring what we need or want to our own mouths. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch our for what is better for others. Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:3-5, CEB).

That attitude is described by Jesus when he said, “Whoever wants to be first among you will be the slave of all, for the Human One [the Son of Man] didn't come to be served but rather to serve and to give his life to liberate many people” (Mark 10:44-45, CEB). A ladle is used to serve. It answers the needs or desires of another. 

Would you rather use a spoon or a ladle?