Serving Together as a Family

How gratitude glorifies God and draws our kids’ hearts to Christ

Hang around the church long enough and you’ll pick up on the lifestyle and lingo of a believer.  One thing you’ll hear is that you should serve others…even better if you can serve together with your kids.  Although undeniably important, I have this nagging suspicion that many of us serve for the wrong reasons and in the wrong manner.

In our most transparent moments we confess our motivations for serving include words like we ought to and should.  Service also sometimes feels burdensome and inconvenient. Collectively, these impure motives and feelings permeate our thinking and pollute our acts of service.  Worse yet, they might deter us from serving altogether.

Today I’ll share a Biblical perspective on why and how we should serve.  If you’re seeking a list of ways to serve as a family you won’t find that here.  What you will find is a philosophy of service – and some challenging thoughts.

Question 1: Why Should We Serve?

The simple answer is that we should serve out of deep gratitude for what Christ did for us, and a desire for God to be glorified.

In Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth, he says:

For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.  2 Corinthians 4:15 (ESV)

John Piper offers a beautiful interpretation of this passage in post entitled, Grace, Gratitude and the Glory of God.  The essence of Paul’s words are this:

Gratitude flourishes in response to grace

The natural response to grace (an undeserved gift or unmerited favor)…is gratitude.  It’s that feeling of happiness toward someone who offered unexpected or undeserved kindness.  It’s one thing when someone is kind to us because they’re paid to do so, or because it’s expected (e.g. my employer gives me a paycheck because I work hard for them, or the fast food attendant serves me because I purchase a meal).  However, when someone is surprisingly kind when it’s unmerited or not required…a feeling of gratitude wells up within us.

Gratitude humbles and exalts

When someone extends grace and we respond with gratitude, something powerful is happening.  For one, the person offering gratitude is effectively saying, “Thank you.  I had a need that wasn’t being met, and you met it.  And you did so even though there was no reason why you should have.  I’m deeply appreciative.”  In saying this, I’m humbling myself before someone else and exalting them as the one who met my needs.  That’s a powerful interpersonal moment.

Gratitude for Christ…glorifies God

God’s gift of salvation is the most gracious act known to mankind.  Contemplating God’s offering of His Son Jesus so that we might have life-eternal inspires deep gratitude.  Why?  Because we didn’t deserve it.  We didn’t earn it.  We didn’t pay for it.  Yet, the gift was infinitely valuable.  As John Piper states it, “When the grace of Jesus penetrates the human heart, it rebounds back to God as gratitude.   Christian gratitude is grace reflected back to God in the happiness we feel toward Jesus.”  This act of gratitude ultimately glorifies God…the giver of the ultimate gift.

And that’s the essence of why we serve others.  We’re grateful for the gift of Jesus, and we can’t help but show gratitude which glorifies God…the giver of that gift.

So how do our kids fit into the picture?

My wife and I have two boys and we have many hopes for them.  We hope they’ll be intelligent, handsome, and athletic.  We hope they’ll meet good wives, have successful careers, and live independently.  However, if only one of our hopes for them could be realized it would be that they embrace Jesus.

The question then becomes, “What can we do to connect their hearts to Jesus?”  We can’t lecture Him into their hearts, scare Him into their hearts, or sneak Him into their hearts.  But there is something we can do.  We can live out our gratitude for what Christ did (by serving others)…so that God is glorified in our presence.  If our kids live in the midst of that reality…they’ll experience a contagious faith that increases the likelihood of them “catching it.”

Question 2: How Should We Serve?

The next logical question is, “How should I go about serving others?”  Here are  5 suggestions.

#1: Sacrificially and Completely

In Romans 12:1, the Apostle Paul says:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (ESV)

What Paul is saying is that we should offer our entire being (body and soul), out of our gratitude towards God.  Simply stated, we should offer up our time, our minds, our abilities, our joy…our everything.  Holding back nothing, we should offer it all out of gratitude for what Christ has done.

#2: Using our spiritual gifts

In 1 Peter 4:10, Peter tells us that, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (NIV)  Not surprisingly, we’re called to use the gifts we’ve been given to serve others.  That makes sense.  What’s intriguing is that we’re called to use them as “stewards of God’s grace.”  By focusing on grace (intently stewarding it), our heart’s natural response is gratitude.  So in the process of serving others with our gifts, we glorify God…the giver of those gifts.

We should NOT take this to mean that we only serve when and where we can use our gifts.  Our thankfulness towards God should compel us to serve – whether or not we’re using our gifts.  What we should do is seek to better apply our gifts, knowing that we glorify God most fully when living in the fullness of His creation.

#3: Working together as the body

Not to think we should live out our faith independently, Paul reminds us in Colossians 3:14-15 that we should function as the Body of Christ – and do so with love and thankfulness.

Whether or not you’re blessed to be in a vibrant community of believers, God’s desire is that we function as one.  This notion made me wonder how fully I actually love those around me?  It also made me wonder if I function as part of the body as He intended.  Perhaps I’m working too much alone – which minimizes my usefulness and makes me vulnerable to the enemy’s advances.

#4: Giving extravagantly

There’s a story in the Bible in which Jesus is being honored at a dinner.  In the spotlight moment, Mary retrieves a small vessel of perfume (worth roughly a year’s wages) and pours it over Jesus’s head.  Upon being chastised by a misguided disciple for wasting the perfume, Jesus said:

“Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me.” Mark 14:6-7 (ESV)

Mary clearly had much gratitude in her heart for Jesus.  She served him in a way that was extravagant.  While Jesus is not with us physically, our hearts should be overflowing with generosity at the knowledge of what He did for us.  We should challenge ourselves to serve others just as extravagantly as Mary served Jesus.

#5: Humbly and Quietly

In Matthew 6:1 we receive an admonition about practicing righteousness.  This passage warns of giving, praying or fasting publicly.

While the topic of rewards might stir up debate, it’s interesting to note that God desires humility when doing spiritual things.  I believe this applies to service as well.  Sure their may be reward for using our gifts to serve others and glorify God.  However, if we serve to glorify ourselves versus reflecting gratitude and glorifying God (think Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest) we should assume we’ve received our reward from man and not God.  Point goes to Satan.

Tying it Together

In Matthew 25:34-40 Jesus talks about the final judgment.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

It stands to reason that the people to the right knew their King, and His name was Jesus.  And out of their gratitude for the grace extended to them, they served others by feeding them, welcoming them, clothing them, and visiting them.  And in the process God was glorified.

We shouldn’t read this passage and think we must serve others to earn a spot in heaven.  No, we receive eternal life by accepting the gift of Christ’s death on the cross.  In our own Matthew 25 moment, we may simply be reminded that the gratitude in our hearts, that played out through our service to others, glorified our maker.  It was in fact evidence of our salvation.  Fruit of the Spirit.  And if today we find ourselves NOT feeding, welcoming, clothing, and visiting our fellow man…our first response should be to ask God into our hearts.  Secondarily, we should just take the attention off of our own lives, and go out to serve others (our spouse, our kids, our friends, our neighbors, and yes…even complete strangers).

If we do this with, for and around our kids, not only will God be glorified – but our children may very well discover the gracious gift that awaits them.

Question: I’d enjoy hearing the story of what God has done in your life. Take a moment to reflect here on what He’s done for you…and I bet you’ll be overwhelmed with gratitude. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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