Why Do Christians Serve?
You’ve probably heard of the soup kitchens that are run out of church buildings. Or maybe you’ve seen a group of Christians cleaning up a school yard. Or perhaps you’ve seen some people gather gifts for needy families during the holidays.
But why? Why do Christians do these things?
Why do Christians serve?
First, it has to be said: not everyone serving food at the soup kitchen is a Christian. Not everyone who cleans up a school yard is a Christian. Not everyone who buys gifts for needy children on Christmas is a Christian.
Many people who choose to serve others are not Christians. They decide to give and serve out of the kindness of their own hearts. These people are awesome.
So, what’s the big deal about Christians serving? Unlike others, Christians are not called to serve out of the kindness of their own heart. They are meant to serve out of the kindness of God’s heart.
I once knew a woman named Michelle. Michelle fought cancer. Michelle raised her four children on her own. Michelle struggled to pay rent for her small townhome. Michelle inspired everyone she came into contact with. Michelle radiated joy. Michelle knew Jesus and followed Him until the day cancer took her life.
I bring up Michelle because life had dealt her a terrible hand, yet she was the greatest servant I have ever met. Her heart loved beyond normal bounds. I will never forget her.
If you opened up the Bible to John Chapter 13, you would be confronted by a peculiar event. The night before Jesus was going to be tortured and murdered by the people He loved, Jesus washed His closest followers’ feet.
People back then walked around dirt streets in sandals. Furthermore, they walked the same roads that animals walked. It is safe to say the feet Jesus washed were nasty. Normally, in that culture, only the lowest of servants would be forced to wash someone’s feet. Yet Jesus did this for His pupils.
That makes no sense! Who does that?
Jesus knew how incredibly ridiculous it was for Him to wash the disciples’ feet, so He responds to their confusion by saying,
“Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord. You are right because that is what I am. I am your Teacher and Lord. I have washed your feet. You should wash each other’s feet also. I have done this to show you what should be done. You should do as I have done to you.” (Matthew 13:12b-15)
Jesus demonstrated in that moment the calling on every Christian’s life.
Remember Michelle? She had every reason to opt out of serving other people. Nevertheless, she served until her body would no longer allow her to. Why? Because she followed Jesus, and Jesus gave her the power to serve beyond normal human limitations.
I believe if Michelle was still with us today, she would say the same thing.
But many Christians are not like Michelle in two ways:
1. They Serve out of Shame
Some Christians serve because they feel ashamed if they don’t. This often results in half-hearted attempts at serving, and everyone around that person can tell they don’t want to be there.
The problem with shame is that Jesus never uses shame to motivate His followers. He tells them when they are missing the mark, but He always does so with love.
If you are a Christian and serving out of shame, maybe it is time to take a step back and re-evaluate your relationship with God. Take the time you are currently spending serving in a place you feel shamed into, and ask God where and how He actually wants you to serve.
I guarantee you’ll be surprised if you spend intentional time asking God what He wants for your life!
2. They Don’t Serve at All
This is a tricky one, because even Michelle had to stop serving in the ways she normally did. It became physically impossible. Sometimes this is the case. However, she served in a different way. She didn’t stop praying for people.
Jesus calls Christians to serve others before they serve themselves, and every person has a role to play. BUT, that role will inevitably change as time goes on. This means anyone who calls themself a Christian doesn’t have an out when it comes to serving.
What Does Serving Look Like?
My wife often tells me she feels bad that she can’t serve more at our church. Right now, her time and energy are tied up in two tiny humans that look and act a lot like me. She wants to serve, but honestly it is a struggle.
Here’s what I tell my wife: you are serving! God has put these children in your life to take care of, and that requires so much of you. Every moment you spend with them changing diapers, cooking meals, and more is a service to God because He loves those kids more than you do.
Christians are called to serve. This is undeniable. But what God calls each person to do is different.
Some are called to foster.
Some serve at soup kitchens.
Some counsel at-risk youth.
Some write notes to people in the hospital.
Some make quilts for the homeless.
Some spend time with nursing-home residents.
Some fix cars for people who can’t afford the repairs.
The list is infinite.
That’s why Christians have to be willing to listen when God calls. Because one thing is always certain: Christians are called to serve others before they serve themselves.