Everyone and every firm is in the business of serving others, or at least serving something. If we look at the function of any business or any job, they all seek to serve a “customer”. From a business perspective, it could be something as simple as McDonald’s serving our needs when we choose to buy a Big Mac or it can be Netflix serving our wants when we choose to subscribe and stream TV series and movies from them.
Through the economic system of capitalism, businesses exist to serve our needs and wants. Whoever does it best, is rewarded with profits as we, the consumer, vote with our money and choose to spend it with them.
A similar lens can be applied to our jobs. A customer service representative on the phone who helps diagnose and solve problems with your credit card, phone or insurances is serving the needs of those who are calling in.
As Christians we talk a lot about the term “serving” and encourage each other to serve others and serve the needs of our community and society. Our secular world does much of the same thing as well. Is there a difference between them?
Christians and churches rightfully emphasise the need to serve others This comes from one of the teachings of Jesus when he was asked what the greatest commandment was. His response was that we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind. He then immediately follows it and states that we also need to love our neighbours as ourselves (Matthew chapter 22 verses 36 to 40).
Jesus also provides further commands on how we ought to serve others and the mindset we should have. In a few instances, Jesus teaches His disciples that they should not “lord it over” other people, but instead seek to serve. He even sets this example for them by washing His disciples’ feet and also giving His life for us on the cross (Mark chapter 10 verses 42 to 45 and John chapter 13 verses 1 to 17).
A conclusion we can draw from this is that when we serve others, it should not be for our own glory or benefit. Rather, it should be as examples to others and for other people’s benefit. It is also an expression of love for others. This entire concept is what is often termed as “servant leadership” where one leads others through service to others. This philosophical concept has its beginnings in the Bible and is uniquely Christian in its roots.
The main difference between Christian servant leadership and secular servant leadership is that a Christian’s ultimate purpose in serving others is so that they may either know God or be closer in relationship with God. We seek to glorify God in all that we do and be catalysts of peace on earth as we preach Christ crucified to all.
Is this for everyone?
Is servant leadership for everyone? As Christians, our great commission is to tell the world about Jesus, so in one sense, whilst it might not be for everyone, it is something we need to learn over time. We must practice and get better at it.
There are a few things we can do to slowly improve. It first starts with our knowledge and understanding of the Bible. The Bible gives us many great examples (whether from the Old Testament or the New Testament) of how different servants of God served others for God’s glory. We should aim to be diligent in reading and studying it as often as we can.
In parallel, we can try and practice with our own families and local communities and churches, whether it is volunteering to help with morning tea or welcoming new comers. In these tasks, we should be purposeful in our speech and conversations, and seek to care for the spiritual wellbeing of those we speak with. Our long term goal is to get better at serving others, and from that, have fruitful, wholesome and encouraging conversations with people about God.
When Christians serve each other and speak the truth of God to others, it is ultimately an expression of our love for each other, which in turn helps to reveal God’s love to the world in our present day (John chapter 13 verses 34 to 35). So let us seek to develop ourselves to be better servant leaders, having a bigger picture in everything that we do in our lives, jobs and conversations.
Brandon Tsang is a Sydney-based writer currently working in IT. He studied Marketing and Economics at UNSW and loves to spend his spare time hiking, playing volleyball or watching Netflix.
Brandon Tsang’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/brandon-tsang.html