At a men’s meeting, a friend told about selling insurance earlier in his life. A story had circulated at insurance conventions about a lady who recently lost her husband and now was faced to care for family alone. A few weeks following the funeral of her husband a dozen people trudged through fourteen inches of snow, rang her doorbell, and asked if there was any way they could help. Her insurance salesman along with his son stopped by the widow’s home and shoveled her driveway and walks.
Talking about serving, even asking to serve, is a lot easier than actually serving.
Why should we serve?
Serving imitates Jesus.
Throughout Jesus’ ministry he had served his followers. But perhaps his most graphic picture of his servant’s heart came the night before his crucifixion. Jesus and the disciples had gathered for the Passover meal. Upon entering a home, it was customary to wash your own feet or to have them washed by a servant before eating. The bowl and the towel were present, but no disciple assumed the servant’s duty. To their surprise, Jesus assumed the servant’s role and washed their feet. “When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. ‘You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one anther’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you’” (John 13:12-15).
When we serve others, especially those who have no way of repaying us, we imitate Jesus. As he gave of himself, we do the same. Jesus set the example, and we imitate him.
When we take up the towel and serve one another we represent Christ to those we serve. We become his hands and his feet. Kenneth Leech wrote, “Christian spirituality is the spirituality of the Poor Man of Nazareth who took upon himself the form of a servant. To follow the way of the kingdom is therefore to follow him who fed the hungry, healed the sick, befriended the outcast, and blessed the peacemakers.”
Serving presents Jesus to the world.
Friedrich Nietzsche, the atheistic philosopher, allegedly stated, “Jesus’ disciples will need to look more saved if I am to believe in their Savior.” Nietzsche used the poor witness of some Christians as his excuse for not believing. He makes a good point: the world is looking for followers of Christ who look like Jesus. The world looks at us not only for right belief, but also for a distinctive Christ-like lifestyle, a faith expressed through action.
The people to whom the apostle James wrote struggled with the issue of faith versus action. In his letter, James illustrated the contrast of “faith alone” versus “faith demonstrated by works” with a hypothetical conversation between two believers: “Someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:18).
The world looks at followers of Christ and says, “Show me your faith by the way you live and serve in this hurting world.”
Service exemplifies the way Christianity is supposed to be lived. Believers who visibly and actively serve present Jesus to a watching world.
Serving fulfills us.
Jesus taught that “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45). This is the paradox of serving; in giving ourselves away, we find ourselves; in emptying ourselves, we find fulfillment.
In a time when many search for self-fulfillment and happiness, most people look for it in repeated highs of promotions, exotic vacations, or an infinite amount of worldly possessions. But real fulfillment comes in serving God by serving others. When we give ourselves away in service to others, we find meaning and purpose in life that selfishness can never equal.
Granted fulfillment is not the goal of service, but it is a by-product of servanthood. When we serve others God has a tendency to flow satisfaction into our lives. In the end meaning and purpose is what we receive.
John Wooden, in his autobiography They Call Me Coach, wrote: “You cannot live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.” You can arrange for a few hundred dollars to arrive at the home of someone who is hurting financially. You can provide childcare for a single parent to give them a free afternoon. You can open up your home to a single adult that is separated from their immediate family. You can volunteer at a food pantry or an inner city mission. Before your head hits the pillow tonight, determine what you can do for someone who never be able to repay you.