I serve the homeless every month with my church. I love doing this for many reasons, but I wasn’t always keen on serving others. I used to believe that serving others meant I could just serve my family, friends, and church community and call it a day. Or that it meant that I could just donate money or needed items and never have any kind of hands-on experience. Then I went on my first mission trip. I took a team of youth to Kentucky to fix up a shelter for women and children. “This will be easy,” I thought. We are just fixing up a house…anyone can do that. But I soon realized that our tasks consisted of more than just painting, gardening, and cleaning. We were to work alongside women and children who had lost everything—they were homeless and hurting, sometimes physically. At the week’s end, one woman showed her appreciation by giving me the boots right off her feet.
Serving others goes is a tricky subject in Christianity, because it entails so many different things we could do! However, here are three things that serving others should do for us if we want to truly reap its benefits:
- Serving others should stretch us. Serving our family, our friends, and even people we don’t like is definitely a call that God puts on our lives. We should seek to serve everyone. Serving others should make us uncomfortable. It should put us in positions that we haven’t normally been in, because then we rely on Christ instead of our own strength! I could easily claim that I go home and serve my family by helping my disabled uncle. But that is comfortable to me, even though it’s a pain. What makes me uncomfortable is going to the homeless shelter, traveling to a foreign country to teach God’s Word to persecuted believers, and serving in prison ministries. But those are the exact things we are called to do. Jesus says in Matthew 25:35-45 that when we stretch ourselves to serve others, we are actually serving Him and growing in Christ-likeness.
- Serving others should humble us. There are few things more humbling than to accept the gift of the shoes off of a homeless person’s feet. I had thought that I was going to serve others and show them God’s love; but in fact, I was the one who was served and shown the true love of God. It reminded me of the story of the widow’s offering that Jesus noted in Mark 12:41-44. I had gone to Kentucky believing I was giving out of my wealth, believing that my offering of time and talents was pleasing to God—and they were. But this woman at the shelter, much like the Biblical widow, joyously gave to me out of her poverty, insisting that I take one of the few possessions she had. I have never felt so small in light of God’s love. But that is what serving others should do for us.
- Serving others should change us. The stretching, the humbling, the discomfort—those are the things that truly change us by decreasing the amount of “us” in us and increasing the amount of Christ in us. So while serving others shouldn’t ever be about us, in many ways is IS about us. It’s about changing our perspective, challenging our ideals, and choosing to trust God. If God’s goal is to remove us (not improve us), then serving others is one of the best ways to achieve that. Jesus put Himself in the servant’s position and encouraged us to do the same to increase the power of the Lord in our lives (Mark 9; John 13; Matthew 23). When we are decreasing self, we give God more room to work and move through us. And nothing could change us more than increasing the power of the Lord in our lives!
If you want to see lasting change happen in your life, practice the spiritually healthy habit of serving others. Get yourself out of your comfort zone and into a place where you truly have to depend on the Lord’s strength and power! You won’t regret it!