It’s not about the coffee

Jim Behar, an executive at Starbucks for many years, wrote up an account of his time with the company and outlined the kind of corporate culture he had helped to develop. His book was entitled It’s Not About The Coffee, with the subtitle Lessons On Putting People First From A Life At Starbucks.

His central claim was that Starbucks was all about people, putting people first and serving them coffee, summed up neatly in the phrase “We’re in the people business serving coffee, not in the coffee business serving people.

It’s quite a claim to make, given that Starbucks is a billion dollar corporation. Can you make that kind of money and really put people first? Is it really not about the coffee?

Whatever you think of Behar’s – and Starbucks’ – insistence that they are more focused on people than coffee, it does indicate that there is something more to the whole experience of serving and being served than simply the delivery of a product.

That is certainly the case when you look at what the Bible says about serving and servanthood. There is far more to serving than just the delivery of a service or getting a job done.

In the Old Testament, God is referred to as Israel’s help on more than one occasion (e.g., Deuteronomy 33.29; Psalms 33.20,70.5, 124.8). The word translated help or helper, is the same as the one used by God Himself when He created Eve as a helper for Adam (Genesis 2.18). This is quite a statement. Just as Eve came alongside Adam to help him steward a perfect world created by God, so God would come alongside His people to help their progress in an imperfect and dangerous world. That is quite a revelation of the nature and character of God; He is a helper.

When we turn over to the New Testament, we find this particular aspect of God’s nature manifested and magnified in the person of Christ. Jesus is explicit about who He is and what He came to do: “The Son of man did not come to be served but to serve” (Mark 10.45). He sets it out very clearly again in Luke 22.27 “I am among you as one who serves”. Years later, reflecting on Christ’s journey to earth in the incarnation, Paul says that He was made in human likeness and took on the form of a servant (Philippians 2.7). The journey from heaven to earth was a journey into servanthood for the Son of God.

Taking into account the context in which these statements are made about the nature of Christ, you will soon find that they were not intended merely to make a theological point – even though they do. The intention of Jesus and Paul was to set before the eyes of the original disciples and those in Philippi, who in later decades began to follow Jesus, a model of servanthood for them to imitate.

Serving is not just about helping out or making sure a need is met. When you serve, especially in the context of church, you connect to something deep in the heart of God. You somehow sync with His nature. You mediate the heart and life of Jesus to people around you.

Wherever you serve, whenever you serve, you are doing more than just meeting a need or getting a job done. You are revealing the heart of God.

Serving – it’s not just about the coffee. It about much, much more.

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