404 What Garbage Juice Taught Me About Humility

What Garbage Juice Taught Me About Humility

“They won’t take it if it’s overflowing. You need to move the trash to the other dumpster.”

I stared down at the text message on my phone in a brief moment of incredulity. I realized that I was going to have to go into the dumpster and pull out trash bags, then haul them across the street on a cart.

The trash at the church wasn’t picked up the previous week because it was just barely more full than they allow. A week later, the trash was out of control. I’m confident people were attempting to recreate the Tower of Babel in the dumpster.

“Are you freaking serious?” I thought to myself. I was not a happy camper.


Just last week I took on some additional responsibilities at church. I’ve taken over facilities, which means I keep the campus and buildings clean and fix minor problems as they arise.

Facilities aren’t exactly my “spiritual gift” but we needed someone to fill in for awhile and I could use the extra hours since I’m only part time right now. Plus, I have a servant’s heart so I figured this would be a breeze.

That is until I had to deal with garbage juice.


I went inside to find the latex gloves I use to clean the bathrooms. Most of the garbage bags were wet and disgusting so I decided to go in prepared.

What I didn’t realize until half way through the process of hauling out the already-disposed-of trash was that these gloves were about as strong as plastic wrap.

As I loaded up the first cart of trash and began rolling it across the street to the larger dumpster, I looked down and realized that the gloves had ripped open. Garbage juice had seeped in and my hands were all wet.



Few things will test your ability to serve like soaking your hands in garbage juice. So when I consider the fact that Jesus came to earth to serve (Matt 20:28), it sounds absolutely ridiculous.

I was reading Philippians 2 this week and the phrase “let this mind be in you” stuck out to me. Paul was framing the humility of Jesus as He came to us and made Himself of no reputation.

I mean God literally came down from heaven, dwelt among us and spent the majority of His time on earth serving people.

He didn’t just get garbage juice on His hands, He washed the disciples nasty, dirty, funky feet. I don’t even like to look at dirty feet!

Jesus never needed to hear a “Thank you”. Jesus never needed reciprocation. Jesus never complained. He served out of an overflow of love.

So I have a new perspective when Paul says in verse 14 to “do all things without complaining“. He’s basically saying, every time you want to complain about serving others, think about the God of creation making Himself of no reputation and letting people kill Him on a cross. All for the sake of love.

Every time I serve, I have an opportunity to be like Jesus. Not by what I do but by how I do it. When I do something without complaining or requiring reciprocation, I’m serving with a servant’s heart not just a servant’s hands.

And that’s what He’s after, isn’t it? Not just the hands but the heart.

Do you struggle with doing things without complaining? 
How do you keep the right perspective? 


  1. Tony, I wouldn’t complain if they’d just do it my way. haha Good stuff. I gotta tighten up.
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  2. Love the reminder about having a servant’s heart and not just a servant’s hands. I can handle the dirty work for the short term, but when I’m in it for the long haul, with no end in sight, that’s when I start complaining and having a not very happy heart. 🙁 With 3 little boys, it’s easy for me to grumble underneath my breath and tell myself I have so much more to offer than changing diapers and wiping tooshies. Honestly, what helps me get through it is knowing that I will have other opportunities throughout the week to serve in areas that aren’t all about dirty, humbling work but more about specifically touching hearts.
    Keri recently posted..Bibliotherapy: The Vow

  3. Tony, I like to serve. It’s been a long time since I have served and then complained, but I have complained. When I was a Sunday School teacher my biggest complaint was that parents didn’t emphasize with their children the importance of bringing their Bibles to Sunday school – some of these kids were in Christian schools, so you could see my frustration on this point. Keeping the right perspective is doing the best you can with what you have at the moment. Also, you have to decide if what you are complaining about has any eternal value. God Bless.
    Juan Cruz Jr recently posted..The Valley of Dry Bones

  4. Doing the dirty work for us is only a rather brief affair…just do it and get it over with.

    I’m blessed that I can take out the garbage and get cleaned afterwards…whether it’s washing my hands, or taking a shower.

    Not every homeless person is able to do that. Especially if they live behind busy buildings. But they live a daily life in it, and they have a thankful heart for the things they do recieve
    Ed recently posted..Silent Women? No Way!

  5. Thanks for bringing the perspective, Tony.

    So true. So difficult to remember. Even more difficult to practice.

    Thank God for grace!

    This was really funny btw.
    Marlee recently posted..How To Avoid Implementing Bad Marketing Advice

  6. I totally struggle with this. As a teacher, I always feel like I do enough, if not moreso. But every now and then, I get emails or notes in my box, requesting me to do more. My kneejerk reaction is almost always to push back. At home, I’m the husband of a very pregnant wife. This has meant I’m now doing most of the household chores. So, when my wife asks me to do other things, I get snippy about it sometimes; if not externally, in my heart. Those are humility issues. I’m working on it. Thanks for this post and reminder.
    Kevin Haggerty recently posted..Friday Funhouse: April 27, 2012

    • I know what you mean. When I start seeing most of my responses come off as defensive, it’s a heart check that I might not have that “heart” of a servant that I think I do.

  7. I recall when I was younger I worked at a retail store, not as a salesperson, but as a maintenance guy, which meant I cleaned the bathrooms, vacuumed the carpets, emptied the trash, etc. I never learned humility more than when I worked at this job. But this kind of work was necessary for the safety and cleanliness of the store.

    Jesus did the dirty work — eating with sinners, washing his disciples’ feet, healing lepers, etc. This kind of work was dirty but necessary for the saving of souls.
    Thomas Mason recently posted..Choosing the Path to Forgiveness

  8. I have always been a “doer”, someone willing to fix things, move tables and chairs, etc, but I have to admit that keeping my attitude on target is an ongoing struggle. Garbage juice is one of those things that I wrestle with when it comes up for sure. I try to help my neighbors as much as possible including unstopping the sewage line on my neighbors house which equates to garbage juice, woof. But to know that I helped a single mother that could not afford to pay a plumber on a weekend really helped me put it in perspective.

    Thanks for sharing this story. It challenges me to get it right.

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  9. Absolutely, I think we all struggle with that. A trend I’m noticing more and more is people leaving the church and ceasing to serve because they feel under-appreciated. They feel like they’ve served their time, and now it’s someone else’s turn. I understand how they feel, but quitting isn’t the answer. We have to reevaluate our motive. Service is meant to be selfless. If we bring a list of conditions (must be appreciated, must be praised, must never be taken advantage of) that’s not a servant’s heart. That will always end in hurt feelings and disappointment. I learned a similar lesson to yours, but mine came when I was the church janitor and I had to clean the bathroom after some kid decided to smear poop from floor to ceiling. Seriously, who does that! :/ So yeah, I feel your pain!
    Nikki Weatherford recently posted..A work in progress.

    • Yeah, I know what you’re talking about. I’m not advocating that we allow ourselves to get burned out or taken advantage of. I’ve been there.

      At the same time, when i do commit, I want to serve with a joyful heart. A true servant’s heart that expects nothing in return.

  10. To quote from Pam earlier this http://thehandwritten.com/why-am-i-so-content/

    “It has nothing to do with you.”

    I remind myself when that it isn’t about me. It’s never about me. It’s always about Him – Jesus.

  11. Garbage juice service with a smile. I love it. By the way, there’s this dumpster where I live….
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  12. I used to have a big problem with complaining but thankfully He’s been gracious enough to answer my prayers regarding it. I can’t say I’m perfect but I’m getting better day by day. My biggest struggle is the times when I’m led to do something and someone else steps in to take credit for my work. I know it’s a pride issue on my part disguised as condemnation for someone else lying about their doing work I completed.
    Jason recently posted..Brought out of Egypt to death

  13. I have to say ouch right now, I needed to hear this.
    This past week serving in nursery wasn’t easy. Nursery isn’t my spiritual gift, but like you, I want to help out and the nursery is short staffed (no real surprise). I’ve been doing nursery duty for months now, but this past week left me complaining. Thanks for the reminder to pull my attitude out of the garbage.

    I’m getting to be around tiny little lives- I get to show them the love of Christ, how cool is that!!!
    TC Avey recently posted..Going Through the Sea of Fear and Doubt

  14. Hey bro,

    I can relate to your story right here so much…it was only 5 years ago that I was for a living; dealing in garbage, bathrooms, floors, and windows. It didn’t take long after my first week on the job of cleaning bathrooms to realize that men and even women are kinda gross. Cleaning urine off the side of toilets…that one snot rag that somebody in the office used but somehow managed to not deposit into the trash can, missing the large rounded receptacle by mere inches…the occasional trash bag in the kitchen that for some reason would not hold onto the contents it swallowed and held on too and then burst open onto clean tile floors when being taken to the dumpster.

    I see now that I was learning different forms of humility everyday, Tony…and I honestly wouldn’t change a thing. The difficult part of these jobs is keeping the right attitude and “Glorifying” God in all we say and do. Let’s be honest, digging through dumpsters is probably not gonna be the highlight of anyone’s week…but you’re so right…when compared to what Christ did…enduring the torturous brutality before the cross and then the crucifixion itself…all in order to save us and to serve. It truly makes you realize…that we get off easy…

    Instead of dying for someone else…we’re cleaning and picking up trash in order to serve…God not only saved us from our sins…He saved us from having to serve others like He did at the end of His earthly life. We are so blessed.

    I’m so thankful for you, bro…thanks for sharing this story!

  15. I’m not a big complainer when doing unpleasant things. Generally I’m able to remind myself that it isn’t going to last forever. Also, no matter how bad it is, it isn’t the cross.
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  16. I tend to have a servant’s heart also but that would definitely test the limits of my attitude. That is just gag nasty. In fact, that may have been what I would have been doing all along. But you make a good point. Jesus came to a place and people who were gag nasty with sin and served. Maybe garbage ain’t so bad. Most of the time I can do things without complaining. Just sometimes…
    bill (cycleguy) recently posted..Generations

    • I think the biggest lesson I learned is that serving with your hands and serving with your heart is not the same thing. I typically will be the first to do the stuff nobody really wants to do but I typically want to be recognized for it also. I have the hands but not always the heart.

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