by Naomi Cassata
My most memorable lesson in servanthood came years ago when I was just a teenager. My mom and I were walking through the parking lot of a grocery store. It was the middle of summer, which meant it was extremely hot and humid—typical Florida weather. My mom noticed an older woman sitting with her truck door opened. She did not look well. Mom went over to see if she could help. The woman had gotten sick all over herself. She said her husband was in the store buying medicine and she would be fine. My mom entered the store and brought out wet paper towels from the bathroom along with a cold drink. As the woman drank, my mom cleaned her skin and clothing. She stayed with the woman until her husband rejoined her.
Mom went out of her way to serve a complete stranger that day. Not only did she give of herself, she taught me a lasting lesson about servanthood.
Serving others is not always convenient. It’s not always appreciated. And it’s definitely not glamorous. It’s a road less traveled because it requires a life of sacrifice. Many people are not willing to do that. Seeing past ourselves can be hard.
Our service to others reflects our devotion to Christ. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). When all is said and done, serving others is about bringing glory to God.
In 1921, a biologist named Thorleif Schjelderup-Ebbe observed what has become known as the “pecking order” among hens. He noticed that when hens were placed in groups, the dominate hens became self-appointed leaders ruling from the top of the rank. They even governed the food supply. The less dominant hens were at the bottom of the hierarchy and had to wait their turn to eat. The top hens pecked the subordinate ones to remind them of their place.
This same term has been used in describing human hierarchy. Our egos drive us to be at the top, while anything less is looked upon as failure. Grasping after fame, money, and materialism is an indication of what is going on inside our hearts. We feel important and appear to be powerful when surrounded by these fleeting things. Seeking to be served and honored becomes our ambition.
This happens among business leaders, college students, club members, neighborhoods, and sadly, even church members. People mistakenly believe more money, bigger houses, and greater influence put them at the top of the human pecking order. Comparing ourselves with others has become our way of gaining recognition.
Jesus dealt with this issue among his own disciples. The pecking order was in full swing. The disciples were arguing about who was the greatest. But Jesus set them straight when he said, “He who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves” (Luke 22:26, New King James Version). In Jesus’ day servants had no rights of their own. Their sole purpose was to serve their master.
Jesus’ disciples needed to learn that life in God’s kingdom wasn’t the same as life in the world around them. Being great on earth means little in Heaven. When our goal becomes gaining honor, reputation, and nobility, we have lost sight of our purpose—to be like Jesus.
Jesus provided the perfect model of servanthood. He performed great miracles, but often forbade people to spread the word. His ministry was marked by serving others. He healed, taught, loved, and died for mankind. He did nothing for his own glory. Instead, he directed it to the Father (John 12:28).
Not to Be Seen
The purpose of serving others should never be to draw attention to ourselves. It should be done unto God—to bring praise to him. When we perform acts of kindness, we are representing Christ to others. We are doing what God would do if he were walking the earth.
Jesus reminds us, “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly” (Matthew 6:3, 4).
Jesus rebuked the prideful behavior of the Pharisees. They coveted praise from others, the best seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the marketplace. Many of them lived for their own honor. They seemed oblivious to the nature of true greatness. They focused on temporal glory and were not willing to give any of it up. Jesus taught a new way, one of humility and sacrifice.
When we serve others, it should be for an audience of one—our Father. Others may never know about the acts of kindness we perform, but God sees it all. He takes notice of our deeds.
As Christ’s followers, it is our mandate to serve others. Servanthood is not forced upon us; rather, true humility comes through willful submission. As we yield our lives to Christ, we become instruments through whom he works.
Unless we are willing to let go of honor and prestige, we will never be like Jesus. Jesus said, “For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him” (John 13:15, 16).
Seek not to be great, but rather to be a lowly servant, for then you will touch the world with Christ’s love.
Naomi Cassata is a freelance writer in Callahan, Florida.
Step Out and Serve
As you seek to praise God by serving others, you may be interested in reading this book:
Beyond Your Backyard
by Tom Ellsworth
God is calling you to make a difference in others’ lives. Beyond Your Backyard explores relevant and simple ideas that can impact others—friends, family, neighbors, your community, even enemies—in big and little ways.
Find out more: