And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 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 10:42-45
But where should we put our time, energy, passion and money? Options are bountiful, and many of us have an opinion on the best way to serve others. Let’s break it down into 3 categories for the sake of simplicity.
Missions: Missions (typically oversees, “Third World” missions get the most press.) Before I was a Christian, I thought the “best” Christians went to places like Africa and South America, serving those with the most obvious needs. There are also local or domestic missions in the U.S. or even close to home.
- Pros: On a mission trip, we can have total focus on what we are doing during our time there. We also have the opportunity to meet new people and expand our horizons, potentially forging lasting partnerships around the globe.
- Cons: Since we are only there a small period of time, we can leave feeling helpless and some say that we can even do more harm than good. Perhaps our money would have been better spent on buying them needed supplies or food. Since this the highest profile way to serve, some people may do it for accolades subconsciously (which can be true for any type of service).
Local: Serving in our community for a cause that is close to our heart and close to home can be very rewarding and highly impactful.
- Pros: We can get to know other servant-minded people in the community and make a big difference close to home. Due to the lack of traveling expense, we can have an extended relationship with a group of people or an organization.
- Cons: Sometimes people use these events or organizations to further their reputation or career. People may pop in and out with no real commitment just to be seen. Also, opportunities may be limited and we may have to take initiative to start an organization that achieves the goal we desire.
Home: Serving the people who live with us, who are in our families, who live in our neighborhood, who we work with, or who we just know for whatever reason is the easiest and hardest way to serve, in my opinion.
- Pros: When we serve our own children or their friends or the folks next door, we develop trust, strong relationships and security. We also can add them to our schedule with relative ease if we are no over stretching ourselves. With commitment and longevity we can see the fruits of our labor and develop lasting and meaningful connections.
- Cons: Typically, this is a low profile way to serve. There is no spot on our resumes for “casserole delivery”, “emergency handyman to the elderly couple next door” or “completely dependable dad who stays up late to do science projects.” Also, we may try to “serve” people who do not want to be served or who are not Christians, and don’t understand why are meddling. It is important that we ask permission to serve people before jumping in headfirst.
Serving is biblical, and however we serve, let it be to glorify God and to bring genuine help to people who are hurting. Keep taking those global trips, serving in hunger relief organizations, and visiting friends when they are sick. When it comes to serving, I say, “go big and go home” because joining a global cause creates a chance for enormous change in the world, while serving close to home has a very personal impact.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40
So let’s say a prayer first that we are doing it for God’s glory, His children and for tangible relief. And let’s not forget to do it all out of love.