Benjamin Franklin once said, “A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle.” How true. It is all too easy to be so focussed on our own to-do lists, schedules, worries, problems, complaints, you name it, that we lose sight of those around us and their needs. And in doing so, we miss the opportunity of experiencing the joy of serving others.
There is an acronym for Joy:
- J = Jesus
- O = Others
- Y = You
In a nutshell, if we want joy, we need to start serving others. Jesus first, others next, and then ourselves.
Serving others meaning
Words change over time, and so has the meaning of “serving”. Nowadays, servers can be people who bring you food in a restaurant. There also are computer servers. This is NOT what we are talking about today.
To put it very simply, the meaning of serving others is to help them and meet some of their needs. It is taking the focus away from ourselves and placing it on someone else.
We all have been blessed with talents, abilities, and resources that can benefit others. And Scripture says that when we use some of what we have in this way, we are serving the Lord Himself. (Proverbs 19:17, Matthew 25:40)
Other synonyms for “serving” include:
What is the importance of serving others
Acts of service have a positive impact on someone else’s life. The result is they are blessed and we gain a sense of purpose.
The Bible says without a vision (purpose), people perish (Proverbs 29:18). Many who commit suicide feel like they have no purpose in life. What a tragedy.
So serving others has an important mental health purpose.
In serving others we tend to forget about our own problems and develop a sense of gratitude for what we have and are. We actually grow emotionally and spiritually in the process.
Serving others also helps us gain new friendships. Some of these connections will result in a personal support system that we all need in times of trouble.
For those who feel lonely, serving others is a great mood booster.
Why does God want us to serve others
Jesus was the ultimate example of a true servant.
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 ESV
“When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” John 13:12-14
To have your feet washed was a big deal in Jesus’ day, as people wore sandals and their feet got extremely dirty. But washing feet was beneath the dignity of most people. It was assigned to the slaves or other servants in a household.
For Jesus to do this task was a shock. Yet he was setting an example. None of us is too important to neglect the needs of others. Jesus told us to love others as He loved us. (John 15:12)
When we follow the example of Jesus, we are representing God to the world around us.
“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
How can serving others make us happy?
“When we help others, our brains release oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine. These hormones have the effect of boosting our mood and counteract the effect of cortisol (the stress hormone).” (1)
Oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine are sometimes called “happy hormones”. They make us feel good.
There is an additional benefit to serving. When we focus on others and what they need, we have less time to focus on ourselves and what we don’t have or wish we could be.
What are ways to serve others?
Serving others is a lot like giving them a gift.
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up …” 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Here are just a few examples of serving others.
Spiritual ways of serving others
- Read Scripture to someone who is sick
- Mentor someone who is not as far along in their spiritual life as you are
- Pray with someone who is needing encouragement
- Remind someone that Jesus loves them and so do you
- Express appreciation when someone is being kind, gentle, or any of the other “fruits of the spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23)
Emotional ways of serving others
- Listen to someone who is hurting
- Encourage someone with your gratitude for their friendship, job they do, or some other praiseworthy quality
- Give a hug
- Send a card letting them know you are thinking about them
- Smile at people so they know they are valued
- Ask others to tell you about themselves before you talk about yourself
- Visit someone who lives alone
Physical ways of serving others
- Take a meal to someone who had surgery, had a baby, or has some other limiting physical condition, or give them a gift certificate with Uber delivery.
- Offer to clean for a busy mom who is worn out
- Provide clothing or shoes for someone who is in need
- Give a ride to the doctor for someone who can’t drive
- Mow an elderly person’s yard
- Give cold water to someone working outside in the heat
- Help your family out with chores
- Take care of someone’s children so they can get errands done or just relax
- Help someone get the groceries they need – shop for them or take them shopping
- Hold the door for someone having trouble getting through it
- Give the best seat to someone else
Serving others using the 5 love languages
Gary Chapman introduced the “5 love languages” quite a few years ago. The premise is that people with different personalities prefer to give and receive expressions of love in different ways.
The five love languages include:
- Words of affirmation.
- Quality time.
- Physical touch.
- Acts of service.
- Receiving gifts.
Serving others is an expression of love. Therefore when you consider their love language, you add a deeper level of caring to your service.
Those who feel loved by “words of affirmation” often are blessed by your listening and giving loving feedback.
“Physical touch” in the form of a massage, pedicure, manicure, and just hugs can go a long way in serving the needs of others.
For the person who feels loved with “acts of service“, you could do some cleaning for them. If their love language is “receiving gifts“, you could give them a gift card to have someone professional do several hours of cleaning. But if their love language is “quality time“, spending time helping them clean would be just the ticket.
Will serving others fix all your problems? No, it won’t. But it will certainly give you more opportunities for joy in life. And when joy is present, problems seem to have less impact on us emotionally.
Ask God to show you ways to serve others. This is a prayer that He will always answer “yes” to.
Want joy in your life? Start serving others. You will be glad you did.
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