This past week we marked an event that in so many ways has changed our lives and our culture, Facebook turned 16. It was February 4, 2004 that Facebook was launched by a group of students at Harvard led by Mark Zuckerburg. You probably have heard of Facebook, and other social media platforms like Instagram, twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest, but there are literally dozens and dozens of social media platforms around the globe that allow people to share pictures, videos, and music. Social media also allows people to share interests, ideas, and advocate for causes, and most make it possible to communicate and build relationships online. One of the characteristics among almost all social media platforms is that they help us promote ourselves.
We can promote what we are doing, what we like, what we don’t like, what we find important, what we find funny, what we find valuable, and what we find entertaining. It’s all about us. We are promoting ourselves. We are living in a self-promotion society looking to get more followers, likes, and downloads. A recent survey said that 54% of all teens, when asked what they wanted to be when they grew up, said they wanted to be a celebrity. And here’s the thing, they don’t have to go to New York, Hollywood, or Nashville to do it. They can do it online through self-promotion on social media.
In a culture that seems to be built around self-promotion and calls for us to be selfish, God calls us to be selfless. Philippians 2:3-4, do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Jesus said it this way, The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and who humbles himself will be exalted. Matthew 23:11-12
If we want to be the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time) it doesn’t mean we promote ourselves, it doesn’t mean we strive to be selfish but selfless, and part of being selfless means we don’t strive to be served but to serve. And let’s think of service not as what we do but as who we are. Can we be known as servants of the most high God? That’s how Peter and John were described, as servants. When people think of us will they first and foremost think of us as servants?
In the early church there was a woman who was known for her service. She was the first Greek woman named in the New Testament, and her name was Dorcas, which I know sounds bad, not a great sounding name, but the name actually means gazelle, so perhaps she was quite elegant and beautiful. Anyway, Dorcas was known as a servant. Acts 9:36.
She was known for always doing good and helping the poor. Have you stopped to think about what you might be known for? What are you known for by your children? Always working? Always watching TV? Always working in the garage? Always on the phone? Or maybe always making time to play and help and listen? What would our friends say we are known for? What does God know us for? These are really powerful questions. They might be painful to think about and face, but enlightening and helpful to reflect on as we move forward in life. What would others say I am known for?
One of the important things about scouting is that it helps give direction to the lives of children and youth. Scouting helps both youth and adults answer this very question: What do I want to be known for? What are the values that are going to shape my life? One of the values I hope we all want to be known for is found in the scout oath, I will help other people at all times. Service. Are we looking to help others? Can other scout virtues like being helpful, courteous, and kind, shape our lives?
Dorcas was known for being helpful and kind, but she didn’t do it in great spectacular ways, but in simple ways, she made clothes. That’s it. She made robes and tunics and shirts for people. She used her skills and gifts to help others. Most acts of service that make a difference aren’t spectacular displays of power but courageous acts of daily sacrifice and giving. It takes real courage to make a difference in the little things of life day after day without seeking recognition or praise. Scouts, let me make sure you hear that. Don’t always look for the spectacular acts of service that will draw attention to yourself, look to serve day after day in simple ways that help others.
We find out in Acts that when Dorcas died, everyone in the community was grieving because she was such a servant, and so Peter raises this woman back to life. Acts 9:40-42. Think of it, the first person raised from the dead by the disciples after the resurrection of Jesus, was a woman who was known as a servant. A woman who simply used her gifts every day to help the poor and those in need. A woman who was selfless. Whoever humbles themselves will be exalted.
So how do we become this kind of servant? How do we live a courageous life that always places someone else’s needs before our own? How do we strive to not promote ourselves but to promote and care for others? Let me offer 3 simple statements, that come from 3 powerful stories, that give us 3 solid images on how to become a courageous servant of God.
Bring a lunch. Offer a ride. Carry a towel.
To be a servant means we need to be willing to bring a lunch, and right now you might be thinking about the little boy who took his lunch and gave it to Jesus, who then blessed it and divided it out among thousands of people so that everyone got to eat. Sure, that’s a great story that talks about being willing to share what we have, but I want to look at another story about a boy who was willing to bring a lunch to his brothers.
David was the youngest of 8 brothers and long before he was the king of Israel, he was just the kid brother. It was his job to watch over the family sheep and make sure they got food and water. When all of his brothers went off to fight for Israel in battle, a great and glorious job, David was the one who had to stay home and do all the chores. I am the youngest of three and when both my sisters went off to college, I was the only one left at home and while my parents did not make me do all the work, I did end up doing more. I’m not sure I did it with a servant’s heart or good attitude.
Not only did David have to do all his brother’s work, but then he was asked to take lunch to his brothers at the front lines. He wasn’t asked to join them in the battle, he was asked to serve them.
1 Samuel 17:17-18. Before he was a king, David was a delivery boy. He was a messenger. He did the insignificant work that needed to be done behind the scenes.
While there are times when we all want to be on the front lines, or in the front row getting all the recognition and attention, a true servant is simply willing to do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done. There are even times when we are asked to make sure that those on the front lines and in the spotlight are able to shine. Instead of looking for ways to promote ourselves, we need to find ways to feed others. Bringing a lunch to others means being willing to serve behind the scenes, without recognition, simply doing what needs to be done because it needs to be done. Where is God asking you to bring a lunch?
The second way we can serve is to Offer a ride. 550 years before Jesus, there was a prophet named Zechariah who said that one day the Messiah was going to enter Jerusalem in victory riding on a donkey. While we might think the son of God should ride in victory on a horse, as many of the Roman leaders did, the donkey was a symbol of royalty, so the messiah would ride on a donkey.
So, when Jesus made plans to enter into Jerusalem at the time of the Passover, he asked the owner of donkey if he could use his animal for the ride, and the man said yes. When Jesus’ disciples went to get the donkey, it was given to them freely with no questions asked. But it wasn’t just any donkey, it was a donkey that had never been ridden. Think of it as a new car. Special. Unique. One of a kind. And the man offered it freely to Jesus.
What is so great about this story is that we have no idea who this man is. His name and position are never mentioned. He was not interested in self-promotion. He didn’t put a sign on the donkey saying, provided for Jesus by Ron’s Donkeys Inc. He didn’t ask for his name to be included in the Bible, not even in a footnote. He simply gave what he had to Jesus. An unnamed person gave what had to give to Jesus.
What do you have to give to Jesus? Many people don’t think they have anything to give. We think, I don’t have special gifts,. I don’t have a lot of money. I can’t sew, or cook, or build houses, so I don’t have anything to give, but we all have something to give. The Bible says that we all have gifts that can be used to serve others, that means we can all offer a ride. We can all do something to serve. We can all do something to help someone in need.
One of the things that I appreciate about the scouts is that they strive to instill into every child, youth, and adult. that everyone has something to give in service. Even the young cub scouts are encouraged and taught to serve. A few years ago, they served us by taking out every single hymnal, bible, piece of paper, and pen in the sanctuary and cleaning all the pew racks you see in front of you. Then they put everything back into the pews (and of course they did it in a very orderly fashion that I laid out for them). Everyone can develop a skill, learn a new way to serve, or give of their time to assist someone in need. It doesn’t take a skilled person to offer a ride it takes a willing person. Are we willing?
And then the third thing we can do is Carry a towel. On the night before Jesus was crucified, he shared the Passover meal with his disciples. He used this time to tell his friends that he was going to serve them by taking up a cross and dying for them. He was giving himself for their sin, and the sin of the world, but the disciples didn’t really hear this because they were arguing among themselves about who was the GOAT. Literally, who among them was the greatest? Luke 22:24.
The night before Jesus carried a cross and died in an act of sacrificial love, the disciples were arguing about who among them was the greatest. Shameless self-promotion among the closest followers of Jesus. Bold acts of selfishness by those who had been closest to Jesus for three years, people who watched all his acts of selfless love and service. If the disciples at this moment are struggling with selfishness, then the reality is that we will all struggle with it at some point in our lives. But instead of Jesus getting angry and yelling at them all, we find that Jesus chose to deal with this situation by serving them.
As Jesus looked around the table, he saw proud, self-promoting hearts and dirty feet, so he got up from the table, poured water into a basin and carried the basin and a towel over to wash the disciples’ feet. In a final act of service before he died, Jesus clearly states to his disciples then, and his followers today, that he did not come to be served but to serve. If we are going to follow Jesus, we have to shift from being selfish to selfless. From thinking about how we need to be served to serving others.
Bring a lunch. Be willing to do whatever is needed behind the scenes to help someone else. Do what is needed even if it is not a high-profile job that will get us noticed and recognized. Do what needs to be done.
Offer a ride. Use whatever gifts and skills we have to serve God. Even if it is just the gift of our time and willingness to serve – give that to Jesus and watch how God will be honored and glorified in the process. Offer whatever we have to God.
Carry a towel. Bend down to truly help others. Be willing to humble yourself and take on the lowest role of a servant without thought of recognition or praise. Simply serve.
These are things we can all do, and as we remember these stories and sayings, it leads us to find the pathways of service God has for us. So, one final thing that every one of us can do in order to become courageous in service, find a consistent place to serve. It can be an act of service here at the church on a Sunday morning. It can be an hour at a nonprofit in the community every month. Join us in a few weeks as we go to serve with Habitat for Humanity, and then find an ongoing place to serve with them, or at the food bank, or Centre Peace, or the schools. Just find a place to serve and then serve. It takes more courage to do the simple things consistently than a great thing once.
If we serve courageously, and are known for our service, then when we come to the end of life we will hear the most powerful words anyone can hear, words from God who affirms our lives and faith by saying to us, Well done my good and faithful servant. Come and enter into the joy of your master.
Selfless – Courageous in Service
1. What would others say that I am known for?
- Is this what God wants me to be known for?
2. In what subtle ways do I seek to promote and serve myself over courageously serving others in simple and consistent ways?
3. Read and reflect on these passages about humility and service:
- Matthew 23:8-12
- Matthew 25:31-46
- Luke 22:24-27
- Philippians 2:1-11
4. I can courageously serve others when I:
- Bring A Lunch
- Read 1 Samuel 17:17-18. What simple act of service can we learn from David? How can we practice this kind of service in our lives today?
- Offer A Ride
- Read Luke 19:28-31. What simple act of service do we learn from this unnamed person? How can we practice this kind of service in our lives today?
- Carry A Towel
- Read John 13:1-17. What simple act of service do we learn from Jesus? How can we practice this kind of service in our lives today?
5. Find a place where you can serve consistently and allow this service to shape your heart and life and faith.