If you had asked me a few years ago why I serve – and why I so passionately encourage others to serve – I might have said something like this: “Because God tells us, over and over again in His word, to serve others!” And this is true. Scripture is overflowing with commands to serve, help, and give to those in need.
But let’s go back and take a look at the Great(est) Commandment.
When the Pharisees asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” (Matt. 22:37-40 NLT).
What does that mean for service?
It’s easy to get caught up in lots of the less-important Whys of serving others: It can be personally and spiritually fulfilling… it helps us get outside ourselves and less focused on our own problems… it reminds us to be thankful for what we have and what God has done for us… and yes, it’s what we are called to do!
But Paul writes to the Corinthians, “If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing” (1 Cor. 13:3 NLT).
So if we are serving only because we know we should or for how it makes us feel, we have gained nothing.
There are times when serving starts to fill a selfish need for me, and it’s in those times that I have to kick my pride and selfish motives to the curb and remember why I serve. I don’t do it out of obligation or to be praised for my works.
I do it simply because He calls me to love. To love Him, and to love those I serve.
So how do we get there?
First, when you serve out of the love you have for God, you will begin to love those you serve – authentically and passionately. And then when we get to the place where we see the people we serve as people created and loved by Him – with value and a specific, God-given purpose – we begin to serve them out of the unselfish and pure motive of love.
“Your heart (that is, your will, your choices), your mind (all your thoughts and desires), your strength (all of your body), and your soul are all to be bound together and focused on love of God, and then the love of all that flows out of this” (John Ortberg, Soul Keeping).
If you asked me today the same question – why I serve – my answer would be, “Because God commands me to love Him and others, and serving is one way I get to do that.”