Serving Always Involves Sacrifice… So Why Do It?
Let’s start by asking a question that probably goes through all our minds at some point: is serving others worth it?
When I work from home, it’s often in the spare bedroom in our basement that doubles as an office. Since there’s no shortage of things going on in our household, I usually shut the door. I might even pop in headphones so I’m not distracted by kids engaged in competing crescendos of noise.
But the longer I’m hidden away, the greater the chance the door will eventually open. And when it does, it’s almost certain that the person standing in the doorway needs something: permission, assistance, transportation, mediation, support, attention, etc.
I wish I could say my default reaction to this is always a cheerful desire to help in whatever way I can. Instead, I’m much more likely to respond with some kind of low-grade irritation. Because when that door opens, it inevitably pulls me out of whatever I want to be doing and forces me to focus on the needs of someone else.
And that brings us to the central issue: serving others demands you give up something.
It might mean giving up time, attention, effort, a material resource, or all the above. But it will always require some level of sacrifice. This holds true in virtually any context, from family to the church.
So back to the question: if serving always involves sacrifice, why do it?
The Bible offers a multi-layered answer, which we can begin to see in what Jesus says to his disciples after he washes their feet:
Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
Jesus, the eternal Creator of the universe (John 1:1-3), has shockingly lowered himself to do the dirty job of washing his followers’ feet (think dusty roads, livestock, etc.). He then makes two important points:
1. We are to follow Jesus's example of service.
Jesus’s argument is simple. As his followers, we are not to be above serving. Instead, we’re to follow his example. And this certainly makes sense, given that Jesus tells his disciples on another occasion that his very reason for coming was not to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:45).
It is, however, worth thinking a bit more about why he calls us to do this. One reason is that serving as Jesus served helps demonstrate to those around us what kind of Savior and Lord we follow. This can be both encouraging to those who already know him and revealing to those who don’t. After all, how do you usually react when you witness or benefit from someone’s humble service?
2. Following Jesus's example is worth it.
Jesus doesn’t beat around the bush here: “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” I’m not sure we emphasize this enough. Maybe we think that wanting a benefit or reward somehow devalues or disqualifies our service? But as C. S. Lewis observed:
The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. (The Weight of Glory)
Lewis is right. We’re told over and over again in the Bible that while following Jesus won’t always be easy, it will ultimately lead to our great benefit. It’s why, for example, Paul urges us not to “become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9).
And it’s the reason Jesus promises a hundred-fold return in our lives for whatever we give up to follow him, not to mention eternal life in the age to come (Mark 10:29-30)! As the old saying goes, God is no one’s debtor. In one way or another, he will always give us far more than we give him.
So serving is something that results both in Jesus’s glory and our genuine good—things that the Bible regularly reveals as two sides of the same coin.
And at the end of the day, that’s why serving is worth it.
Ready to find out for yourself is serving is worth it? Visit our serving page and find out where God can use you to serve this fall.