Years ago, I was in a department store where I saw that one of the clerks had a badge on her lapel: “HMIHY?” It was supposed to remind her to ask the question, “How may I help you?,” in order to represent the kind of service the store wanted its customers to receive. When you interact with a business, you sometimes need to contact their “Customer Service” department; often, the first question they ask is “How may I help you?” And no matter what the product or service may be, we often form our strongest impression of a company by how well—or, sadly, sometimes, how poorly—they perform customer service.
Jesus Christ, though He was the Word of God in the flesh and the very Creator of the universe, set the example of service. He even said that “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Do you and I have an attitude of service toward others? We should internalize that attitude, if we haven’t already.
God has given each of us spiritual gifts. We all have different gifts, and we all serve in different ways. Many of us serve in various capacities on the Sabbath. Some set up the chairs. Others take care of the audio system. Others serve as ushers, or assist in a mothers’ room, or help with parking. Some provide special music. There is a lot more going on each Sabbath than just a sermonette and a sermon, and we all help in different ways as we are able. Some of us have opportunities to visit brethren who are sick, at home, or lonely in the hospital.
Sometimes we help by offering encouragement or a sympathetic ear to our brethren at services—being there for one another, expressing our love and support. During the recent pandemic, we have learned the lesson of just what a blessing it is to be able to physically meet together for fellowship. There have been various times throughout Church history when meeting together for fellowship was a real challenge; maybe now we have a little taste of what some earlier brethren experienced in times of trial.
Of course, we often help one another when we aren’t at Sabbath services, as well. Parents make a happy and comfortable home for their children, and children do their part to help their parents with chores around the house. Some of you may have the gift of being caregivers. I remember how my sister served my mother as a caregiver for nearly ten years. It takes great strength to rise to the challenge and experience the blessings of serving in that very special way.
A Serving Nature?
We in God’s Church know that God has called us to overcome human nature. We, who are preparing to become His firstfruits and serve under Jesus Christ in the coming Kingdom of God, are learning to be lights even to today’s world. How are we learning? We meditate on God’s law and His whole way of life, and we practice that way as we obey His commandments, radiate His love to others, forgive those who have wronged or hurt us, and cooperate with His government here on the earth—the Church. We want to develop God’s own divine nature within ourselves.
One major characteristic of that nature is an attitude of service. Who is the greatest Servant in the universe? God the Father is the greatest Servant in the universe—even Jesus said, “My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28). What’s more, God has called all of us to be like Him and to be like Christ. He has called us to serve. So, we need to develop the heart and the attitude of a servant. Notice the difference between Christ’s attitude and that of the mother of two apostles:
Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him. And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.” But Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you ask” (Matthew 20:20–22).
Yes, they had ambition, and we need to set goals. But what kind of attitude did they have? God warns us about selfish ambition—it’s one of the fruits of the flesh listed in Galatians 5:20. I still remember that, many years ago, one minister in our former association wanted very much to be promoted to a Regional Director position in a different part of the world, though most didn’t think of him as a strong candidate. Sure enough, he didn’t receive the position—and he left God’s Church soon afterward. He let selfish ambition ruin him. We, too, must be careful not to have that kind of vanity and that kind of ego—not to want to be promoted like the sons of Zebedee.
John the Baptist had the opposite attitude. He said, referring to Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). When we see others increasing their service and their responsibilities, are we jealous and envious? Or do we rejoice in their service and do our very best to support them?
How did Jesus’ other disciples react to the presumptuousness of the mother of the sons of Zebedee?
And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:24–28).
What was the attitude of God’s apostles and servants? James was a brother of Jesus Christ—he could have advertised his relationship with the Messiah, but how did he refer to himself in the opening of his epistle? “James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1). Though a brother of Jesus, he understood his place as Jesus’ servant.
Of course, Christ’s brothers were initially very skeptical, and they even came near to slandering Him at first—but after they saw their resurrected Brother, they were converted. You can read about that in Acts 1, when Mary and Jesus’ brothers were there in the upper room. James became converted and Jude became converted—and what were their attitudes? How did they identify themselves? As “a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Peter referred to himself as an apostle at times, and so did the Apostle Paul (1 Peter 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1). But despite his authority, the Apostle Peter later gave a different title to himself: “Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1). There were times when the Apostle Paul used his authority as an apostle (cf. Romans 1:1), but both of these men also knew and understood that they were bondservants of Jesus Christ.
The Greek word translated “bondservant” is doulos, which is “one bound to service without wages” (“Bond Servant,” Merriam-Webster.com). Now, the feminine form of that word is doulé. Luke recounts the angel speaking to Mary, telling her she would become pregnant—as well as Mary’s humbled response:
And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her (Luke 1:35–38).
Yes, Mary was greatly honored, maybe more than any other woman in the history of the world. The New International Version translates verse 38 with “I am the Lord’s servant.” Just think about that! What is your identity? Who are you? The New American Standard Bible says that “Mary said, ‘Behold the Lord’s bond-servant; may it be done to me according to your word.’” The King James Version says, “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord….” So the translation of doulé is “female slave” or “bondmaid.”
Again, Mary knew who she was! She was going to be the mother of the Son of God, yet she called herself a handmaid, a maidservant. Why would she do that? And why would we be called bondservants? You all know the answer, if you have been baptized. “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit [that] is in you, [which] you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).
We’ve all been bought at a price, the very greatest price ever paid in the history of the world: the shed blood of the Savior, Jesus Christ. So, God has called us to serve in different roles and responsibilities. We are now bondservants in training to become kings, priests, and judges. God also calls us His sons and daughters. “I will be a father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:18).
We know that we have a high calling—we have different roles, but part of our training is as bondservants, as maidservants and manservants. We are called to love, to care, and to serve as Mary did.
How Can We Serve?
We know our calling and who we are—we are bondservants of Jesus Christ. So, how can we fulfill that role? There are so many ways of serving, and our commitment must be wholehearted. As our Presiding Evangelist, Mr. Gerald Weston, has reminded us, we must not be trying to have “one foot in the world and one foot in the Church.” We should have made a wholehearted commitment at baptism and deepen that commitment as we grow. And when we realize that we are bought at a price—that we surrendered our lives, our bodies, our spirit, our mind, to Jesus Christ and God the Father, that we belong to Them—we can have the most wonderful peace that surpasses all understanding.
We know that we no longer have to battle on our own, that we have a living, loving Savior—a great High Priest who always lives to intercede for us (Hebrews 7:25). We have an Advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1)! Christ is our Savior and even our “Lawyer”—He’s our Intercessor! He sets the example of service and Christian charity, and we must strive to follow His example.
What are some ways of serving? Even our elderly widows in God’s Church can serve valuably. Scripture reminds us of one famous example:
Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day (Luke 2:36–37).
Anna served with fastings and prayers, and we all have different gifts of service. Anna was not one who could serve like a deaconess, with physical actions and service; rather, she “served God with fasting and prayers night and day.” Another example of someone who served in that way: “Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis” (Colossians 4:12–13).
Epaphras served by laboring fervently in prayer, as do many of our brethren. Nobody should diminish the importance of such service—it is a major way of serving. Remember: “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16).
We also serve when we simply fulfill our God-given responsibilities, which are different for each individual. Fathers have fatherly responsibilities. Mothers have motherly responsibilities. Husbands, wives, sons, daughters, executives, employees—all have their own God-given responsibilities.
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them. Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ (Colossians 3:18–24).
I remember to this day an article Dr. Meredith first wrote for The Plain Truth, which was later republished in the May-June 2013 Living Church News: “What Every Husband Needs to Know.” As a husband, I need to lay down my life in service to my wife. Have you noticed that John 3:16 parallels what we read in John’s first epistle? “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:16–18).
Are we responsive when our brethren have physical needs? We should not be an enabler to a lazy person who refuses to work as he or she should. He who does not support his family is worse than an infidel, as God warns us through the Apostle Paul (1 Timothy 5:8). But we should rejoice as we are able to meet the needs of our brethren. “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35), or, as the Moffatt New Translation puts it, “To give is happier than to get.” I remember that when I was a youngster living in New London, Connecticut, one of our neighbors had an extensive garden, and every so often a box of vegetables would just appear on our back porch. We never spoke about it; he would just give us that box of vegetables. It was very encouraging. Even many in the world know how to give, and we should as well.
Remember that we read, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38). If someone is scooping out a bowl of ice cream for you, you want to make sure they really fill up the bowl or the cone! God says it will be measured back to us as we have that attitude toward others.
Another very important point is that we must also be willing to receive help. It may hurt our pride to admit that we need help, but when we receive help we are also helping our helpers. No, we should not be lazy and ask others to do for us what we can do for ourselves, but we must humbly accept the help God chooses to give us. You may remember the story of the man who was stranded on his rooftop during a flood, who prayed for God’s help but then shooed away a rowboat, a motorboat, and even a helicopter that came to save him. He complained, God, why haven’t You saved me?—he failed to recognize all God had done to bring him to safety.
Serve others by giving of your physical goods. Serve with an attitude of giving. God’s Work serves with an attitude of giving as well. We often mention this principle: “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8). Our tithes and offerings make it possible for us to distribute literally millions of pieces of literature each year! When we tithe, we are serving God’s Work in a powerful way!
True Servant Leadership
Dr. Meredith often emphasized the importance of servant leadership in the Church. Yes, we have leaders, and we practice the scriptural form of Church government. But what is a leader? In God’s eyes, a leader is one who puts others’ interests ahead of his own:
Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:1–4).
So, as we interact with others, we must always be asking ourselves how we can help them. Not that we always speak that question—though sometimes we will speak it—but that we must recognize our God-given responsibilities and carry them out joyfully as bondservants of Christ. Joshua was a great patriarch and a great leader committed to his service in ancient Israel. Near the end of his life, he famously challenged those of the nation of Israel to commit themselves to the Eternal. You may remember his famous statement: “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). Indeed, Israel did serve the Eternal after Joshua’s death. We need to have that same kind of commitment if we’re going to be faithful and effective servants of God.
So, let’s rejoice in our calling as manservants and maidservants of Jesus Christ. We need to pray for the humility and the opportunity to serve, as well as for a giving attitude. Practice servant leadership daily. “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord’” (Matthew 25:21).
Brethren, may we as faithful servants continue to love others with a willing heart and a serving attitude. May we always be ready to ask, “How may I help you?”