[…] we were created to be of Service to others. We were created to do good works, which God planned for us to do. Service is more than something we do because of our Savior’s example. It’s a crucial part of our Faith and the meaning of Christianity.
The Victory in Virtue Series
Part 12: Fight the Vices Part 1 — Gluttony
Part 13: Fight the Vices Part 2 — Sloth
Part 14: Fight the Vices Part 3 — Envy
Part 15: Fight the Vices Part 4 — Wrath
Part 16: Fight the Vices Part 5 — Lust
Part 17: Fight the Vices Part 6 — Pride
Part 18: Fight the Vices Part 7 — Greed
Part 19: Fight the Vices Part 8 — Fear
Hello Readers, hope all’s well. Today I present another entry in the Victory in Virtue series. As this series gets closer to wrapping up, I’m continuing with more Virtues. Today’s post is on the Virtue of Service.
Jesus didn’t come to be served, but to Serve. His teachings and the example of His life show us we must do the same. Not only that, the New Testament teaches how important it is that we Serve—it’s what we were made to do.
It’s simple enough, but there is one crucial point we need to be careful of. Why we do what we do is every bit as important as what we do. Not all Service is Virtuous Service.
So that’s today’s topic. Let’s get started.
What Is the Virtue of Service?
Service. Noun: the action of helping or doing work for someone.
Helping others, in other words. Well that sounds simple enough, right? The Virtue of Service must be one of the easiest Virtues to have then. Or is it? Just because something is simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. The New Testament’s teachings on how to live our lives are simple, but they definitely aren’t easy. Not if we’re serious about them, anyway. But I’ll get to that.
First, what does the New Testament say about the Virtue of Service? Jesus Himself told us He didn’t come to be Served, but to Serve. He wants us to follow His Divine example, and be Servants to others, to our fellow human beings. Jesus Served, so we must too.
(25) But Jesus called them over and said, “You know that those who rule the Gentiles show off their authority over them and their high-ranking officials order them around. (26) But that’s not the way it will be with you. Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant. (27) Whoever wants to be first among you will be your slave— (28) just as the Human One didn’t come to be served but rather to serve and to give his life to liberate many people.”Matthew 20:25-28 (CEB)
He wants us to liberate others from lives of sin, following His example, by preaching the message of the Gospels. Besides that, there are many other ways we can be of Service to others. One of those ways is by caring for the pressing physical needs of those around us. Giving food, clothing, and shelter to those who are in need of it. Again, it’s Jesus who tells us to do this, and He says it in Matthew 25. Caring for the needs of others is an important part of the Virtue of Service.
(34) “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. (35) I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. (36) I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’Matthew 25:34-36 (CEB)
I wrote about this in detail in last week’s post, Part 21: Empathy. The Virtues of Empathy and Service are connected. Because for our Service to be Virtuous and acceptable to God, we must Serve others for the right reasons. We must have the right motives in our heart.
If we Serve others because we want their gratitude, or want them to owe us something, we do it for the wrong reason. If we Serve because we want others to see us and praise us as good people, we do it for the wrong reason. Our Service must be motivated by our love for God and our fellow humans, created in His image. That’s it. We must never have any other motivation than that, or our Service is not Virtuous.
If we have motives of being praised by others or receiving something in return later, our Service is not acceptable to God. (And it’s sociopathic to only think of what other people can do for us, and never what we can do for them.) True, Virtuous Service must be motivated by love and Empathy, and nothing else.
To be praised or be rewarded isn’t sinful in and of itself. But if that’s what we secretly want for our Service, then when we get it, that’s our only reward. We won’t receive any reward from God for what we did if we did it to be honored by humans, and not to honor God. This goes back to what Jesus says in Matthew 6.
(2) “Whenever you give to the poor, don’t blow your trumpet as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets so that they may get praise from people. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get. (3) But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing (4) so that you may give to the poor in secret. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.Matthew 6:2-4 (CEB)
Besides having the right motivations—love for God, love for others, and Empathy—truly Virtuous Service should cost us something. It should take something out of us. I wrote about this back in Part 3: Charity, and the idea is the same. (The Virtues of Charity and Service are closely connected too.)
If we have a million dollars, and only give ten dollars away, we’ve given absolutely nothing. True Charity must cost us something, or else it won’t be seen by God as an acceptable sacrifice. Giving away 0.000000001% of our wealth is completely meaningless, because we will never miss that money. We are not sacrificing anything at all if we give away ten dollars but have $999,990 more. Ten dollars is meaningless to us.
It’s the same way with Service. Other than giving money to help someone’s physical needs, when we practice the Virtue of Service what we sacrifice is our time, labor, and emotional energy (Empathy and love). If we only give a little of our time, a little of our energy, what have we sacrificed? If we give away one minute of our time, we aren’t making a true sacrifice, same as if we only gave away one dollar as Charity. We won’t miss that one minute of our time, it means nothing to give it away.
But if we give away a few hours of our time, OK, now we’re getting somewhere. Now we’re sacrificing a great part of our morning or afternoon. Now God sees we’re giving up something significant we can never get back (hours of our time) for the sake of serving others to honor Him. Now it’s a sacrifice God will honor and accept.
Service is sacrifice, it means giving our time, labor, and/or emotional energy for the sake of others, to honor God. But if we don’t give an amount that means something, that costs us in some way, then we’ve given nothing. We haven’t made a sacrifice.
And of all the things we could give others, our love and Empathy are the most precious and meaningful. This is our emotional energy. More and more people are lacking Empathy these days, which I wrote about in Part 21. When fewer people are practicing the Virtue of Empathy and caring for each other, it’s more meaningful than ever to give our Empathy to others. Empathy and emotional energy is a priceless and precious commodity these days.
We can Serve others by showing them Empathy and helping with their emotional needs. We can listen to them talk about their troubles, for example. This is one of the greatest things we can do for another, because it greatly helps the speaker relieve the burden they’re carrying inside. And so few people are willing to listen to a person’s story of their woes. That’s too bad, because listening to each other is such a great help.
Being Empathetic always takes something out of us, always costs us something. Our emotional energy, which manifests as caring and love for others, is one of the most precious and meaningful things we can give. We don’t have an infinite supply though, so we can’t give it away forever. We have to take good care of our emotional needs and be replenished too. But if we make the effort to care about the feelings and pain of others, we are giving a sacrifice of Empathy and love. Our sacrifice Serves others by helping their emotional needs. And this precious sacrifice for the sake of others is one God will surely honor and accept.
The point is, if our act of Service (whatever it is) is a sacrifice on our part (costing us time, energy, etc.), it will be Virtuous and pleasing to God.
But we must never think about the costs of our service though. We should pay no mind to that at all.
When we have a true heart of Service, we don’t think about what it costs us to be of Service to others. We only think about how we can help and be of Service to our fellow humans.
This also goes back to Matthew 6, and the part about doing things for the right reason. We must never complain about how much we do to be of Service to others, and how much it costs us. That turns our minds in the wrong direction. Instead of thinking about how we can Serve, we think about what we’re losing. If we think about these kinds of things, it leads to resentment and bitterness. We’ll grow resentful that nothing of tangible, physical value is coming back in to recoup our costs.
But getting paid back is not what the Virtue of Service is about. Service is sacrifice—it costs us. We must give freely out of love for God and one another, without thinking of the costs.
If we complain about the costs of our Service, we’ll be like the hypocrites Jesus mentioned in Matthew 6:16. They put on a show of suffering so everyone knows they’re fasting. We can do the same by complaining about how much we give of ourselves for Service. If we do this, we might get sympathy from others. And if that’s why we complain, then when we get the sympathy we get our reward.
(16) “And when you fast, don’t put on a sad face like the hypocrites. They distort their faces so people will know they are fasting. I assure you that they have their reward. (17) When you fast, brush your hair and wash your face. (18) Then you won’t look like you are fasting to people, but only to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees in secret will reward you.Matthew 6:16-18 (CEB)
At the heart of all this is having the right motivations for anything we do. Our Service must be motivated by our love and Empathy, and freely given on our part. If we can Serve with a heart like this, our Service will be Virtuous. It’ll be a genuine sacrifice that pleases God, and He will honor it.
We must work on this genuine attitude of Service over time. It takes time to develop a true heart of Virtuous Service. But if we continue doing our best to help others any way we can, while also making sure our motives are correct (hearts in the right place), we’ll become Virtuous Servants in time.
But one other thing we can do to get the Virtue of Service is to pray. Let’s turn to that now.
Prayers for the Virtue of Service
There are many prayers we could pray to receive the Virtue of Service. The best ones of course will be the ones that we create ourselves—the ones that come straight from the heart. Remember: When we pray we aren’t trying to say the right combination of words to unlock something in Heaven. No, that would be magic, which is an abomination to the LORD. Prayer is much simpler. Simply tell the LORD what you want, what you need, what’s on your mind, what’s bothering you, and so on.
Praying for a Virtue is a great way to build it up. It’s one of the best ways, actually. So here are a few short, simple prayers for the Virtue of Service you can try adding to your prayer routine.
Energize Me, LORD
As I said, doing acts of Service always takes something out of us. We spend our energy Serving others. It can be physical energy (labor), or it can be emotional energy (Empathy and love). But in any case, we spend our energy.
We can’t spend our energy forever, so it’s only natural we stop sometimes to recharge ourselves. To rest, and let our energy return. But as we grow closer to Christ and become more Spiritually mature, we should find we have more energy to give each year. We should become able to go for longer periods without that rest and recharge (not forever, of course). This happens because following the LORD and Serving in His name will become an energy source for us; our Service will energize us. It feels good to do good, with good motivations.
As we work toward that goal of growing stronger with more energy, let’s still pray to the LORD right now, and ask for more of the energy we need to Serve.
LORD, thank You for creating me to do good works. I wish to do as many of these good works as I can in my short life here on earth. But the limitations of my flesh mean I can’t do acts of Virtuous Service all the time. I know You designed me with these limitations for a reason—so that I’ll take the rest and relaxation I need, like You did on the seventh day. I don’t seek to transcend the limits You designed for me, LORD. What I ask is that You grant me more and more energy, and empower me to gain energy from the good feelings that come from being of Service to others. Please grant me more energy for Virtuous Service, LORD, so I can do more and more good works in Your name. Amen.
Save Me from the Approval of Others
For our Service to be Virtuous, it’s vital that we have the right motives. It’s vital that our hearts are in the right place. If they aren’t, our Service isn’t Virtuous and isn’t a sacrifice. Our actions won’t be accepted by God or even be worth His notice, if we do them for the sake of worldly rewards.
Remember Matthew 6! I quoted Matthew 6 a few times, above, go back and look if you need to. What Jesus says in Matthew 6 shows us what our motivations for performing Service should be. If we are motivated in any way, even a teeny-tiny little bit, by receiving some kind of worldly reward, then our Service is not accepted in Heaven. We’ve already received our reward down here on earth, so why should God reward us?
Now, most people are fine with not receiving money or other kinds of compensation for acts of Service. But there is one thing that many people trip up on: The approval of others. Facebook likes, comments of praise, adoration and admiration. The respect of others. Yes, all these kinds of approval are very powerful and addictive forces in our world today. Many people who do acts of Service are motivated by getting these things, whether they even know it or not. But if deep-down in our secret heart we do our Service for the sake of getting Facebook likes, then we’re breaking Matthew 6 and falling into the trap. Our reward will be short-lived Facebook likes and approval from humans. But we won’t have God’s approval, or any eternal reward from Him in Heaven.
We can have the wrong motivations without even being aware of it. We have to search our hearts very carefully if we want to discover these deep, hidden flaws in our motivations. But in Matthew 6, the Savior gives us the guidelines we need to avoid this approval trap. Here’s an improvised update of Matthew 6 for our 21st century world: “When you volunteer or do other good deeds, don’t post it on Facebook. Your Facebook likes will be your reward; you won’t be rewarded by God. He won’t accept your Service, since you actually did it for likes and praise. Do your acts of Service, and don’t post them anywhere. Let no one know that you do these things, if you can.”
The right thing done for the wrong reasons is still wrong, and not accepted by God. So this matter is of the utmost importance. Our Service must be motivated by love for God and others, and our Empathy for others, and that’s it. Sometimes our motivations aren’t what we think, though. Sometimes they’re hidden. So to get to the truth of the matter, we need God’s Wisdom and the Holy Spirit. In other words, we need to pray over our motives. Try this prayer, then:
LORD, thank You for creating me to do good works. And thank You for the words of Your Son, our Savior, in Matthew 6. Please save me, LORD, from the Spiritual trap that is the approval of others. Please rescue me from being motivated by seeking the approval of others in any way. Search my heart, LORD, and convict me in the Spirit if I’m not doing my acts of Service for the right reasons. Please destroy my pride and vanity, until the only motivations I have left are my love for You, for others, my Empathy, and my desire to glorify Your Holy Name through good works. Amen.
Grant Me Service CREATIVITY
Most of us have some ideas that pop into our heads when we hear the word, “Service.” There are some common activities we consider acts of Service. Things like volunteering at a soup kitchen or breadline, donating money, cleaning up parks, and other things like that. There’s nothing wrong with these things, and they can all be Virtuous acts of Service that please the LORD.
But why stop there, with these things? God gave us creativity … let’s use it! Let’s think outside the box, and come up with new ways to be of Service to others that no one has thought of before. Let’s be innovators when it comes to Serving our fellow humans. Let’s not be afraid to try new things.
If we want creativity for this reason, we want a good thing. But if that’s what we want, we need to pray for it. So here’s a prayer asking the LORD for creativity and inspiration for finding new ways to Serve others.
LORD, thank You for creating me to do good works. I wish to do good works in the Service of others, LORD, to help both believers and unbelievers alike. Please grant me not only Wisdom, but also Creativity about how I can best Serve mankind. Grant me the Creativity to see new ways to be of Service to people, and how to make clever use of my unique talents and abilities—which You gave me—in the Service of others. Grant me the Creativity to tackle the problems and needs I see in my community. LORD, I pray You will show me innovative and brilliant ways of Serving others, so me and those working with me can have our biggest possible impact on the needs in our community, to create the most possible Glory for Your Name. Amen.
Again, there are so many options for praying for any Virtue. I could go on and on and on. Everyone is always welcome to leave a comment with prayers of their own.
But once we’re done praying, it’s time to act (in the physical world). Let’s move on to that now.
Living the Virtue
To cultivate a Virtue, we must also practice it, and do that consistently. Don’t just do it a few times and stop there—stay consistent. That consistency is how we build up a habit. It’s also how we cultivate and strengthen a virtue.
So how can we do that with Service? Let’s look at a few practical ideas. And remember: These are only a start! The possibilities are endless. I welcome any comments with good ideas about this.
Here are just a few ideas of how we can live out the Virtue of Service in our own lives:
- Volunteer with church groups or other groups, even secular ones
- Discern the needs in our community, and organize our community to tackle those needs
- Do fundraising to enable us or others to perform works of Service
- And other ideas you can think of!
The first item is obvious. If we want to Serve others … let’s get out there and do it!! Hopefully our church organizes some groups dedicated to community Service. If so, great! We can join one of those and get involved. And if our church doesn’t have groups like that … we can make one! We start by joining forces with a friend. Two people working together toward a goal make a team. Gather up some more people, and before we know it, we’ve organized a Service group at our church!
We can also perform Virtuous Service by working with secular organizations. If there aren’t any options at our church, there’s nothing wrong with volunteering for a secular group. What makes our Service Virtuous is our motivation for doing it, not so much who we’re doing it with. If our heart is in the right place, and we want to glorify God through our good deeds, we can still glorify God by working for a secular Service group.
The next item ties in to the third prayer in this post, and the idea of getting creative about Serving. Every community has its own needs and problems. We can practice the Virtue of Service by tackling the challenges in our community.
First we need to discern what the needs are. We need to look around us and talk with our neighbors about problems. Then we must find out who in our community is interested in tackling these problems, and team up with them. We need to think of something, anything at all we can do to help. We make plans as a group, prepare what we need (as much as we can), then get out into our community and start trying to relieve a problem as best we can. If we’re passionate about Serving others, people in the community will see we’re genuine and some will want to join up with us. They’ll want to help us when they see what we’re doing. This is one way to start a community movement.
Last, we all know that Serving our community takes resources. Besides our energy, one of the resources we’re going to need is money. Although we must learn to have Faith in the LORD that He will provide what we need (Matthew 6:25-33), it could be that He will provide for us if we take some steps to get money. Like fundraising.
If we raise funds for enabling ourselves or others to do Virtuous Service, we’re doing a good thing. Enabling another person to perform acts of Service may not add much to our own Virtue, but it’s still a good act because it means there will be more good deeds happening in our world. The total amount of good in our world will increase, we can think of it that way. Fundraising is hard work too, which means fundraising so that we or others can perform acts of Service is Virtuous Service on its own. Performing Service ourselves may add more to our own Virtue, but no matter.
We must have Faith in the LORD that He will provide what we need. But that doesn’t stop us from trying to raise funds ourselves.
(30) If God dresses grass in the field so beautifully, even though it’s alive today and tomorrow it’s thrown into the furnace, won’t God do much more for you, you people of weak faith? (31) Therefore, don’t worry and say, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ (32) Gentiles long for all these things. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. (33) Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.Matthew 6:30-33 (CEB)
A Sign of Healthy Faith
Jesus didn’t come to be served, but to Serve. He said it Himself. Not only that, He also told us that to be the greatest—to make the most Spiritual progress on the Christian path—we need to become a Servant to others. So our instructions are clear: We must be of Service to others.
Not only that, Ephesians 2:10 tells us we were created to be of Service to others. We were created to do good works, which God planned for us to do. So Service is what we’re all about as Christians, Service is our purpose.
(10) Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.Ephesians 2:10 (CEB)
If our Faith is true, we’ll want to perform acts of Service for others. Serving others is a sign that we’re walking in the Spirit and our Faith is healthy. James 2 famously says if we aren’t doing good works, our Faith is dead.
(14) My brothers and sisters, what good is it if people say they have faith but do nothing to show it? Claiming to have faith can’t save anyone, can it? (15) Imagine a brother or sister who is naked and never has enough food to eat. (16) What if one of you said, “Go in peace! Stay warm! Have a nice meal!”? What good is it if you don’t actually give them what their body needs? (17) In the same way, faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity.James 2:14-17 (CEB)
Serving others is vital for us as Christians. It’s more than something we do because of our Savior’s example. It’s a crucial part of our Faith and the meaning of Christianity.
There are many things that qualify as “Service.”
As long as we’re helping others, and helping the needs of others, we’re doing a good thing and we’re on the right track. As long as our Service is a true sacrifice on our part, and actually costs us something we’ll miss (whether it’s time, energy, money, or something else), then our Service is accepted and honored by God. The Virtue of Service is simple … but it isn’t easy. What we must do is clear, but it always costs us something.
There is one thing we need to be very careful of though—our hearts must be in the right place.
If we have the wrong motives for doing Service, our work won’t be accepted by God. Even if our Service takes a lot out of us (as it should) as far as energy and resources. If we’re motivated even a little bit by receiving some worldly reward—which includes praise from others—then God won’t accept our Service. Our praise and recognition is our only reward. We must be motivated by love and Empathy, and nothing else.
The approval and praise of others is a Spiritual trap!! We can’t fall into it!! We must always do the right thing for the right reasons. With Service this is even more important. Why bother spending our energy and resources if God won’t accept our sacrifice? We must pray over our intentions and keep them pure. We must take a hard look at our motives.
We must read Matthew 6 and keep those words in our heart. Service is a good thing we were created to do. But why we Serve determines whether our Service is Virtuous or not. We must not ruin our Service! We must keep our motives as Virtuous as our acts, or it’s all for nothing.
The Virtue for next time is Mercy. Stay tuned for that and Subscribe to my FREE weekly newsletter with the link below so you’ll never miss a post!!
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Until next time, be strong and do good!
Your new best friend in Christ,
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