It sounds really good when we talk about it, this “serving others” idea.
“I’m going to make a difference with this ministry!” Or “How can I help my neighbor across the street?” Or “I’ll volunteer with that particular organization.” Often we can find plenty of opportunities to serve right within our own homes.
I’m sure there are a few people who serve to get noticed, but I think most of us really want to help other people. We serve from a heart that wants to please God. But when those “others” we serve don’t appreciate our help or take advantage of us or aren’t kind in return, we can get discouraged.
We can learn a lot about serving others from Jesus. In John 13:12-15, we find Jesus washing the feet of His disciples.
“So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.“
Jesus specifically tells His disciples that He has done this as an example for them. I think we should pay attention! What lessons can we learn from His act of service? Here’s four that I noticed.
1. Serve even when you’re going through a difficult time.
Verse one of chapter 13 tells us that Jesus knew his hour was come. In other words, He was about to face torture, death on the cross, and temporary separation from His Father. Yet His thoughts were on His beloved followers, and He served them.
When we serve others, we get our minds off of ourselves and our troubles. (Please note that I’m not saying this was the purpose behind Jesus serving His disciples, but it’s usually true for us). Rather than sitting around and focusing on our problems (or waiting on someone to serve us!), we can get out there and help someone else.
2. Serve knowing who you are as a child of God.
Verse three of the chapter tells us that Jesus knew “that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God.” His identity was that of the Son of God.
As we reach out to others, let’s do it as children of God, knowing that He is with us and will help us. We serve not in our own strength, but through His power.
3. Set aside whatever could hold you back from serving.
Before He began serving, Jesus laid aside His garments and girded Himself with a towel (John 13:4). The clothing He was wearing at first may have gotten in the way as He washed the disciples’ feet.
What things might hold us back from serving? Is our calendar too full? Do we focus on other priorities? Let’s examine any excuses we’re giving for why we can’t serve and look for opportunities we may be missing.
4. Serve those who will never serve you.
As far as we know, Jesus washed the feet of Judas Iscariot. (We’re not told until verse 30 of the chapter that Judas left the upper room.) What was that like for Jesus? How about for Judas Iscariot? Jesus knew about Judas’ impending betrayal, yet He served him just as He did the other disciples.
I believe it takes the grace of God to serve those who are unkind or ungrateful. I know I’m not equal to that task without the fruit of the Spirit and the love of God.
There’s a great reward if we choose to serve. Verse 17 of the chapter says, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” When we first start serving, we may be unhappy or have a wrong attitude, but we’ll likely not finish that way!
As we look back over these four lessons, can you figure out the key to serving others like Jesus did?
The very Son of God washed the dirty feet of his twelve disciples. Beyond that, Philippians 2:8 shares the humility Jesus exemplified by coming to dwell with man on earth.
“And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.“
If we want to serve others in the same way that Jesus did, we have to humble ourselves. No act of service is beneath us. 1 Peter 1:5 says to be “clothed with humility.” We put it on, we cover ourselves with it.
That same verse says that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. How sad it is to think of God standing against us, especially when I know how much I need His grace.
And paradoxically it’s by humbling ourselves that we can access all that God has for us. Proverbs 22:4 says, “By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honor, and life.“
Let’s ask ourselves, “Whose ‘feet can I wash’ today?” The way we serve likely won’t be the literal washing of someone’s feet, but surely there’s an act of service just waiting to be performed.