(Photo by Selma Komisky)
What it Means to Serve
By Brittney Perez
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.”
– Philippians 2:3 (NASB)
What is your passion? This is the question I was asked a few weeks ago. My first reaction was, “That’s hard! I am passionate about a lot of things!” As I was contemplating what to write about, I kept hearing the same two words come into my head: serving others. While I am passionate about many things, one thing I have recognized over the years is that it brings me great joy when I can serve other people.
Serving people can look physically different in various circumstances, but it is the attitude of the heart that should remain the same. When I personally think about serving others, I think Philippians 2:3 gives a great depiction of what that means and looks like. Serving others is being selfless; it is the emptying of self to meet the needs of someone else. It is making yourself expendable with humility, regarding others as of more importance than yourself.
There are two stories in the Bible that really stand out to me when I think of what it means to serve others. The first can be found in John 13:1-17 when Jesus washes His disciples’ feet. I believe it is an incredible thing to take in. Jesus, the Messiah, took the place of a servant and washed His disciples’ feet. Wow. I mean who wants to do that? Wash someone’s feet? I’m sure most of us would pass, but Jesus didn’t. He did it willingly and earnestly. In verses 14-15, 17 of the passage after Jesus had finished washing His disciples’ feet, He said, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” Basically what Jesus is saying is to serve others to the fullest. I love that not only did Jesus give this command, but he gave an example of what serving truly looks like.
Another great example of serving can be found in Luke 10: 25-37. Later on in the story, Jesus gives the expert in the law this depiction of what loving your neighbor as yourself looks like. If you read the story, there’s a man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and on the way he gets attacked by robbers. After being severely beaten, the Bible tells us in verse 30 that he was left “half dead”. Jesus goes on to say that a priest happens to be going down the same road the half-dead man is on, sees him, and passes along on the other side. A Levite (one who was called to administer alongside the priests in the Temple of God), passes by this same man and the same thing happens. He sees him and walks the other way. Finally, the Bible tells us a Samaritan sees the man and takes pity on him in his distress. He bandages his wounds, puts the man on his own donkey, and brings him to an inn to take care of him.
When I read this I think “wow.” The first two didn’t even take the man into consideration. What I find interesting is all three of them-the priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan – “saw” him, but only the Samaritan did anything to help the man. It was the Samaritan that looked upon him, had pity, and took care of his needs. What I find even more astonishing is not only did he take care of the man’s wounds, he went the extra mile and brought him to an inn to take care of him! In verse 35 we see the man went even further than that; he gave money to an innkeeper to look after him and told the innkeeper that he would reimburse him for any extra expense they may have in looking after the man! That’s what serving others looks like. It’s going above and beyond what we might do otherwise. But how does this look in our daily lives?
In our daily lives, we can find ourselves in various environments where we can serve others. One of those places is at work. I work at a public library and so every day I interact with people from all walks of life. Maybe you work with the public as well or in an environment where you talk or interact with people throughout the day. For me, I enjoy working with people, even those who are difficult to serve. I can’t picture myself ever having a job where I don’t get to help people in some way. It really is something I thoroughly enjoy and a gift that I believe God has given me. When I am at work at the library, I really try my best to make sure people have the best experience they possibly could. I realize when I am at work that it’s not about me and what I want. I am there for a purpose and that is to provide people with the best service possible. Even in the difficult moments, I try and think about how Jesus would respond to a situation and this verse typically comes to mind: “Whatever you do [whatever your task may be], work from the soul [that is, put in your very best effort], as [something done] for the Lord and not for men,” (Colossians 3:23, AMP). When I think upon this verse, it doesn’t necessarily make the situation easier, per se, but it does change my outlook, which is typically what I need in the moment. When you go to a store, restaurant, or any place that provides a service for you, you expect to get good service, right? How we would want to be served ourselves should be the same attitude we have when serving others.
If you are a believer in Christ Jesus, another place you probably think about when it comes to serving others is church. Church is a great place to serve the body of Christ and also those who come that possibly do not know Him. Jesus calls us to be His “hands and feet” (1 Corinthians 12:27 NIV). He calls us to serve others and has given us an example that we should follow (referring back to John 13:14-15,17).
Now, serving people is a great thing, but there is one thing that can get in the way of our serving others and that’s our human nature. That nasty human nature; the flesh. Whether we are at work, church, even, or wherever, sometimes we may have it in our heart to want to serve others, but we find it hard to do so for various reasons or in certain situations. Maybe we don’t even think about serving people. Sometimes we may find ourselves having a bad day or we simply find some people hard to get along with and don’t “want” to serve them. Regardless, God calls us to be servants and it is possible to have a servant’s heart in every situation. We need to choose to look to Christ who set perfect examples for us.
One thing I have noticed is that working with people isn’t always easy. People have different personalities than we do; attitudes toward people or life, and it can be a challenge to serve people we maybe we don’t necessarily enjoy or who differ from us, but as believers in Christ we are called to serve. We may find it easier to serve people at our church than at our place of employment. Have you ever thought about that, or have found it “easier” to serve people at church than at your job? This is where I think the problem lies: Many people go to work because they have to, it’s an obligation to many so serving others in the work environment may be looked at as something that’s required within a certain time frame because they are being paid to do their job. Church, on the other hand, can be seen by many as a choice. No one is paying you to be at church, you choose to go and if you serve you may think you “choose” to serve, but in reality, regardless if you’re at work or at church, serving others should be looked at the same; getting paid or not. In Mark 9:35, Jesus said to his disciples that “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and servant of all.” Sometimes I think we can adopt this attitude of serving others at work and serving others at church as being different things, but they’re not. Serving is serving regardless of where you are at locationally.
In order to serve people wholeheartedly, we need help and that help can be found in Jesus. He set the standard. He left the example for us to follow (John 13:1-17). Now all we need to do, by His grace and help, is to do our part and make the effort to follow His example and walk in love. Love is important when serving. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:3, “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” Paul is essentially saying that it is through love that we are able to truly carry out anything meaningful in this life (even serving others) and if we do not do things in love it’s as nothing. It’s a crazy thing to take in, but it’s true. Serving others needs to stem from love.
Wherever you are at reading this article, my hope is that your thoughts toward what it means to serve others is changed. Sure, it isn’t easy to regard another as more important than yourself, as Philippians 2:3 says, but I can honestly say that serving someone, whether it be at work, church, etc. has never left me feeling bad. I’ve never served someone and thought, “That was a bad idea.” If anything, it’s changed my present attitude even and has lifted my spirit. I pray that, as you find yourself serving others, your own countenance is lifted, your spirit filled, and that you experience great joy.
In the words of Jesus in John 13:15, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
Truly He has done a lot for us.