Recently I’ve been going through Celebration of Discipline, and this week the chapter on the discipline of service really stepped on my toes and encouraged me all at once. I have a lot of friends who love to serve. Some serve with kind words and letters of affirmation, some sacrifice time to just sit and listen, some spend their weekend cutting grass or babysitting, and some invest the little money they have in organizations that meet “the least of these” right where they are.

I’m sure you know lots of people who will serve too, but as I was reading this particular chapter I wondered, “How many of us are willing to be a servant?”

Foster writes, “Self-righteous service comes through human effort. It expends immense amounts of energy calculating and scheming how to render the service. Sociological charts and surveys are devised so we can ‘help these people.’ True service comes from a relationship with the divine Other deep inside. We serve out of whispered promptings, divine urgings. Energy is expended but it is not the frantic energy of the flesh.”

He continues to later say, “Self-righteous service is affected by moods and whims. It can serve only when there is a “feeling” to serve (“moved by the Spirit” as we say). Ill health or inadequate sleep controls the desire to serve. True service ministers simply and faithfully because there is a need. […] Self-righteous service is temporary. It functions only while the specific acts of service are being performed. Having served, it can rest easy. True service is a life-style. It acts from ingrained patterns of living. It springs spontaneously to meet human need.”

What I think we so often forget is that we are called to be servants, to be slaves. To die to ourselves and daily esteem those around us as higher and more important than we are. And when we do that, when we seek Christ first and love our neighbors fully, we become servants.

It shouldn’t be about serving, about working to check something off a list so we feel holier. Instead it should be about seeking, being fully present and meeting needs around us so faithfully that we hardly realize when we do it.

I like to serve others, but I would rather be a servant. Who or where do you serve? Do you think it’s easier to serve or be a servant?


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