To serve or be served? That is the question. The very idea of being a slave or a servant is offensive to my flesh. My flesh, and the culture that surrounds me, beckons me to want to be served rather than to serve. Then I behold Jesus. Jesus is God’s Servant [Matt. 12:18, Is. 42:1]. I discover the paradox that it is truly better to serve rather than to seek to be served. I discover that serving is an act or worship to God. Here are three ideas about serving as worship.
Jesus’ exemplary servant attitude is summarized,
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” [Phil. 2:5-8] [Emphasis mine].
Jesus attitude of humility is displayed as He made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant. Jesus yields His actual glory and universal authority to came as a servant as an expression of worship. People, on the other hand, are prone to selfish ambition, conceit, and pride [Phil. 2:3-4]. Our perceived glory and authority are temporal, illusory, and generally seductive. Our sense of position, prominence, and power are not perceived from an eternal perspective. I need to have Jesus’ mind, or attitude, towards serving God and other people.
I need to appreciate that when I voluntarily humble myself to serve God and others it is an essential display of worship modeled by Jesus. In contrast, service that is merely altruistic behavior is not intended to bless God. Rather than worship God, that attitude worships mankind. Similarly, if my motive to serve others is a perceived sense of my wellbeing than I’m not trying to bless God. Again, the object of worship is not God, but in that case self. The attitude is an important element of true worship and service to God.
Jesus humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. The servant’s attitude of worship is displayed by actions of obedience. Our Lord observed, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” [Mk. 10:45]. He unequivocally answered the question whether it is better to serve or be served. Even the Messiah, the glorious One who was worthy to be served, came to serve rather than to be served. Jesus’ attitude would be proven by His actions. Jesus proves His mind to serve by countless actions, but most noteworthy is His sacrificial death. Jesus’ sacrifice was a unique fulfillment of the will of His Father, and the ultimate demonstration of love and obedience – worship.
I’ve discovered that it is relatively easy to talk about serving. It is generally easy to serve when I seek opportunities to serve that are comfortable for me. Comfortable serving doesn’t seem to cost too much. It doesn’t really involve much in the way of sacrifice emotionally, physically, or spiritually. Unfortunately, serving without some measure of appreciable sacrifice doesn’t seem to nurture the soul. God’s servants realize that all true worship involves a legitimate sense of sacrifice.
Certainly if my will is truly surrendered to Christ, as a servant’s will must be submitted to his master, than my actions of service will bring me joy, rather than feeling like an onerous burden. But in the reality of the Christian human experience, there is a tension between my flesh and God’s Spirit when I’m called to sacrifice as worship. I feel the tension, it is real, and I must choose. Am I worshipping God as His servant, or am I worshiping self (my will be done)?
I want to serve God by serving others for the Father’s glory as Christ did. When I decline baseball playoff tickets to see my favorite team (that I love), because I have a prior commitment to serve my Neighborhood Group (small group), I don’t feel like a martyr, or a hero. I simply know that I’m blessed when I choose to worship God by serving others. And I confess, as petty as it might seem, that there was a conflict. But I don’t regret the choice, or what for me was a sacrifice. And my hope is to bless and glorify God.
We are called to have an attitude and actions of a servant in numerous realms. Some of the typical areas are marriage, family, calling, career, and community realms. Here’s a snapshot of servant worship to God in each area:
Marriage: When I choose to serve my wife for God’s glory and her pleasure than I worship as I serve in my marriage. When I serve with any ulterior motive it is not worship, but manipulation and exploitation.
Family: When I choose to serve my sons for God’s glory and their benefit than I’m blessing God. Our sons are wonderful, godly, young men. Nevertheless, I can at times resent or become frustrated by an attitude or behavior that seems to reflect a lack of appreciation for my service to them. God has called me to serve them with a humble and loving heart. I should communicate to them my feelings, or a desired behavior that I would like to see from them. But a servant has no place for resentment or frustration towards those he is called to serve.
Calling: Will I serve in the context of a local church ministry without desire for accolades, affirmation, or applause? Will I serve to glorify God? Will I be in the right place, at the right time, with the right attitude, and do what I’m called to do as worship to God?
Career: Will I do my work in the marketplace, or at my campus, to glorify God? Will I seek to minister to others and put their needs before my own? Will I respond to difficult people and circumstances as a spiritual servant?
Community: As God’s servant I choose to befriend and build relationships with my neighbors. I ask how they are doing, and listen to their replies. And I seek to genuinely care for their needs when I’m able.