How Serving Changes Us
The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But the good Samaritan reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”—Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Jesus, Matthew 20:28
Service Is A Major Theme For Followers
The Bible frequently speaks about ways that we can use our gifts and how we can love and serve others. Our love of God is demonstrated through obedience by how we serve others in love. The well-known parable of The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) establishes this matter front and center and exposes how often those who followers of Christ often miss opportunities for serving others because they are distracted by self-concern or even religious obedience. But the heroine of the story, a Samaritan, someone the Jews considered detestable, recognized a need and met that need. And in the end, he was praised for his love and stewardship of the talent, time, and treasure he had been given to the service of someone outside of his religion, race and community circle.
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The Ultimate Example Of Service
But the one who told this story was the quintessential servant of people; Jesus. He is the ultimate prototype of service done from the right motivation (love) and for the right reason (God’s glory). Jesus was never unwilling to stop and engage with someone who was hurting, needed help, cried for healing, had a hang-up, or even considered by onlookers a hypocrite. Sometimes he stopped en route to aid someone with spiritual ailment other times it was physical need. Regardless, Jesus was never too busy to stop and care for those who needed to be both loved and served. Even dying the cross, as Jesus’ life was coming to a close, he welcomed a criminal into His kingdom. Now that is a breath of service lived right up to the end.
And Jesus maintained a posture of service, which seems out of place for a King. Typical Kings demanded service and did not come to serve. As a demonstration of service, on the night before his death, we see an extreme example of this posture. At the last supper, which the disciples knew as the Passover meal, Jesus welcomes each of the disciples into the upper room and washes their feet as they dined together. The King of Kings bows takes on the role of an ordinary household servant and cleans each of the disciple’s feet. He was teaching something of great importance—service is a necessary act of obedience, and something demanded of every disciple. Here is what our King and Servant said.
“Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”—John 13:12-17
The surprising thing about this moment and teaching is that Jesus, knowing that Judas would betray him, also washed his feet. Conscious of this Jesus persists with the lesson and served his enemy and betrayer. The teaching is profound and challenging. Service an act of obedience by a disciple, not only to those we prefer and appreciate, but even those who might be considered an enemy— those who may mistreat, scorn, or take advantage of us. This is the ultimate example of service—to serve those who may not serve us in return. It’s service done from the right motivation for the right reason regardless of the reciprocation. And Jesus lived this out, dying for all, irrespective of if they choose to accept his gift of life eternal.
But What’s In It For Me?
Is there any win in this for me? And yes there is if you hold to a long view. And the win is big.
It’s easy to forget that our lives are about something further out. Something beyond this place we call earth. Our physical time here is but a speck in time and preparation for life beyond this place. What we give ourselves to in this life can ripple through all eternity. Listen to what Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’“—Matthew 25:34-40
Our service has an impact on our witness, and this ripple is felt into eternity. And while we don’t always see it (Note: “Lord, when did we see you hungry”), it matters. You may not experience it, feel it, or even see the ripple but your service, done in the right motivation for the right reason, has an impact. Maybe the win is not seen immediately but often as we enter eternity we discover our service had far more impact. It may even change entire generations of people.
But never forget service does change you as well. When we serve others we serve God (Note: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”). It is clear from this teaching that the person we actually serve as we serve others is God himself. For a life submitted to God serves God, and him alone. And serving others, again from the right motivation and for the right reasons, is done for God and His glory. And what is great about this is that it changes us—you and me. In service to God, our hearts become more tender, we begin to see the situations of others in a different light, we learn to see people as God sees them and our hearts become more like the heart of God. It is in service we are changed from one degree of glory to the next.
Every day one has the opportunity to serve and love others. To be like Jesus is to be a servant to others. It will ripple into eternity.
Vince Miller is a speaker, author, and mentor to men. He is an authentic and transparent leader who loves to communicate to audiences on the topics of mentorship, fathering, leadership and manhood. He has authored 16 books and small group curriculum for men and is the primary content creator of all Resolute materials. Contact Vince Miller here. His newest book is 20 Lessons That Build A Leader.