Serving Because You Love Your Neighbor

In this series on serving God last week I started on the “Why?” of service. I mentioned how there are three principles to look at. The first one is that we are slaves to Christ. Now today I’m going to look at another reason we serve; other people. When we serve, it is primarily to serve God, but it is secondarily to serve other people. Service is not for our own benefit. And there in may be why some do not serve, because it is not self-gratifying. Yet the point of service is not us. The point is sacrifice, commitment and love for God and other people. It is not selfish actions or else it wouldn’t be called service! In fact Jesus taught us this, “The greatest among you will be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11). Isn’t that just so interesting?! It flies in the face of current worldly philosophy. The world will tell you to do what is beneficial for you. To act or not act based on what is best for you. To do everything based on what will benefit your status, on what will make you happy. Look to only do what will advance your life, what will make you get noticed and what you feel is right. The world says, “Want to be great? Then do whatever you can to educate, advance, strengthen or promote yourself.” Jesus tells us, “You want to be great? Then get down on your knees. Take the insignificant job. Humble yourself. Do what promotes others and not yourself. Want to be great? Stop thinking about being great. In fact, stop thinking about yourself at all.” There are many “great” Christians. But many of them are “great” in the world's eyes, not Christ’s.  We need to stop looking at our options with the attitude of “What can I get out of it?” Instead we need to look and choose based on, “How can I glorify God?” or “How can I help other people?”. 

The church as a whole (especially in America) needs to get over itself. We’ve become too selfish in our churches. Everything is catered, tailored and customized to individual likings. We have multiple services to choose what day, time, type of music and type of sermon we like. We have “ministries” for every type of social class (singles, moms, teens, college age, young parents, seniors etc.) to socialize with people we want to be with. We can “attend” church from the comfort of our home. We have made the church so self-gratifying should we be surprised that no one wants to serve?
Do our churches look like the church that the Apostles started? They sold all that they had for the benefit of others. We complain about the people that sit near us. Did you ever read of the saints in Acts concerned about themselves? Did they gripe about there not being a “singles” ministry in their church? Were they concerned about the cosmetics of their meeting house? Does Luke record for us that they were upset about the sermon length, style of music, lack of families in the church or the budget? Or were they concerned more about their fellow brother/sister in Christ? Were they concerned with what they liked and wanted or with what their neighbor needed? Were they concerned about the needs of themselves or the needs of others?  They were followers of Christ that sacrificed for their God and for others. Their service had no concern for themselves. 

The reason for service comes down to the two greatest commandments; to love God more than anything and to love your fellow man as you would yourself. I’ll talk about loving God and service in the next article. In this one I want to focus on loving your neighbor. 

Do you find yourself struggling with why you should serve? Do you serve but don’t like too? Does service feel like work or a job? Do you not look forward to doing the service you signed up for? Is it overwhelming? Tiring? Unfulfilling? Do you think about stopping your service? It may have to do with the focus and the reasons why you serve. When you have a list of things to get done for church, when you have a meeting to attend to, when you have phone calls to make etc. what do you think about? What is pressing in your mind? The tasks? How much time it’s going to take? What other things you could be doing? How tired you are? How busy you are? Do you ever once think about anyone else but yourself when you serve? Do you ever think about other people? Then you may need to realign your reasons for service. Your service is for God and His people, not for you. It’s not about you. The whole reason you were given a spiritual gift was to glorify God and serve other people (1 Cor. 12:7), not yourself! 

In fact, if you are not thinking about other people when you serve, then you don’t love your neighbor as yourself. “How can you say that?” you might think. “I love these people! It’s not like I hate them or anything. I like pretty much everyone in church.” But can you say you truly love someone you don’t even acknowledge? Can you say you're serving for your fellow christian if they aren’t even a thought in your mind? If you go and serve in some capacity and your fellow Christian doesn’t once enter your mind, can you say you love them? If you go to church because there is work to be done, not because there are people it will benefit, can you say you love your neighbor as yourself? 

We are to love others just as well as we love ourselves. Ok, so when we serve we tend to think about our time, energy, other things we could be doing, making sure we get the job done etc. We think about those things because we care about ourselves and what is going on in our lives. So shouldn’t we have the same concern and consideration for other people? If we don’t, can we really say we are loving our neighbor as ourselves? You are giving yourself all this consideration in your service, so according to what the commandment teaches, shouldn’t you be considering just as much for your neighbor? This is one of the reasons you are supposed to serve; because of how much you love your brothers and sisters in Christ. That is one reason why so many people either don’t serve or they do but are not happy, because they don’t truly love God’s people. Their service is not based on love but on actions. Their service is based on tasks, not people. Paul taught us, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14) So when you sweep the floor, count money, watch kids in the nursery, hand out a tract, attend a business meeting, stay late or come in early it should be because of how it will benefit your brothers and sisters. 

Ask yourself why you serve. Ask yourself why you don’t serve. The answer may be because we are too consumed with ourselves. Maybe there is no fulfillment in your service because you have become task oriented instead of people oriented. Look above and beyond the task and to your neighbor. Ask God to increase your love for your brother and sister. So that your love for them overflows into your service to them. May you serve and serve out of a pure love. Because that is one of the biblical reasons for doing any service at all.

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