For the Son of Man also came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.

Mark 10:45

Not to be served, but to serve, and not only to serve, to sacrifice His life for the good of all. This is Jesus, the model servant. Many people are self-serving, they only do things if there is something in it for them. We’ve fostered a society of great distrust. I currently have a well-intentioned idea to put forward and I need some help to do it, but I’m afraid to trust anyone, fearful that someone will take my well-intentioned idea and either steal it, profit from it, or use it against me. Which then makes me wonder do I just keep the well-intentioned idea to myself and never develop it, which doesn’t seem right either.

No one is being called on to die for other people. Some people choose to step into the line of fire, so to speak, which is why I have always had great respect for those in the armed forces (whom we will honor tomorrow on Veterans’ Day) and first responders. They are potentially called upon to give their lives for the good of many. However, only a small percentage of people will serve in this way.

We are all called to serve in some way, and none of us is called to be served. Some may find themselves in positions where they are served, but this shouldn’t be something that is expected, or demanded. For instance, at summer camp, I have few precious minutes to eat, I’m always on the go. Sometimes, someone will say “I’ll clear your plate so you can get to your next event quicker.” And I’ll say “thank you.” I appreciate a small gesture like that because there are so many things going on that sometimes even the minutes count. Not all the time, but some of the time. I certainly would never get up and leave my place dirty, nor would I demand someone clear the table for me. The only reason I have for even allowing someone to do this small gesture of kindness is so that I can go serve in another capacity, not because cleaning or anyone is beneath me. There are also other occasions when I take someone else’s stuff to the trash, and that actually feels good. It feels good to tell someone “stay at your table a few more minutes and relax, I’ll take this for you.”

Imagine if we made serving “competitive.” If we worked hard to serve others more than being served ourselves. Imagine if we had a debate about who would clear the table, if we competed to do that. If we all rushed to grab the door for the person behind us, rather than being slow and hoping someone will open it for us, or even worse, quickly opening for ourselves and letting it hit whoever is behind.

I’ve written about the phrase 5-5-5-1 on the Prayer Team before, as a suggestion for how to pray each morning. The first 5 is to thank God for five things. The second 5 is to pray to God on behalf of five people. And the third 5 is asking God for five things that we need TODAY. When I pray like this, I ask God for things like patience, wisdom, safety, efficiency and fun. These are things I need today. I don’t pray about retirement, or my son getting into college. Neither of those things will happen today. I pray for the things in my life and in the lives of my family and friends that are needed today. For years, I encouraged people to pray 5-5-5 and prayed that way myself. Several years ago, however, I realized that something important was missing from the prayer. Thanking God for five things I have, praying to God for five people who are important to me and asking God for five things I need today, together seemed self-serving. Something was missing. So I added a 1, and that is asking God for an opportunity to serve at least one person today, for God to put someone in my path today that I can serve. It’s interesting that every time I offer that prayer, to be able to serve one person, God always answers that prayer. It may be someone I know, or a total stranger. It may be an opportunity to serve in a way that was expected or it may be a total surprise.

It’s interesting in reading the Gospels, Jesus was never too busy to serve. When someone called “Rabbi” or “Teacher,” Jesus always answered. When He met Zacchaeus in the sycamore tree, He told him that He would stay in his house that very day. He didn’t tell him to make an appointment with the disciples or stop by the office in a week or two. When the Disciples asked Jesus to send the crowds away at the end of the day, Jesus told them that the crowds should stay and they would find food for them—this is when the multiplication of loaves and fish fed 5,000 men plus women and children. Jesus passed on days off, good nights of sleep, comfort and eventually His very life in order to serve others. Kneeling in the Garden of Gethsemane, knowing that His Passion was only minutes from commencing, He asked His Father to take the cup away if it was possible, but then submitted, “Not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” (Matthew 26:39) This is why He is the model servant. So, here is a challenge: Start each day off with a prayer that asks God for an opportunity to serve. And say these words as you conclude the prayer—not my will but Your will, and may I look for opportunities not to be served but to serve.

Lord, thank You for the gift of this day. (list five things you are thankful for). Thank You for the important people in my life (pray for at least five people). Lord, please give to me the things I need today (list five things you need TODAY). Lord, give me the opportunity to serve at least one person today. Give me the eyes to see that person and his or her need. Take away from me the desire to be served and instead give to me a desire to serve. Let not my will, but Yours, be done in my life today. Amen.

To serve and not to be served. To do God’s will and not just our own. These two ideas will put us on the path to being good servants!