What Service Looks Like

By Gene Veith
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Christ calls us to live our faith by loving and serving the people He brings into our lives. How are you training your children to do this?

She works part time at a diner, waiting tables. When her lunch shift is over, she picks up the kids at school. Today, her 10-year-old daughter has soccer practice. She and her 12-year-old son sit in the bleachers and talk while the girls practice.

Afterward, they rush home. She fixes dinner, with the kids helping out. Her husband comes home from his long commute. He’s worn out, and he’s worried about layoffs. He needs a break, she thinks, and so do I.

On Saturday, she stuffs envelopes for a pro-life rally, drops the kids off at her mother’s, and finally she and her husband have an afternoon to themselves. When they pick up the kids that evening, her mother mentions her appointment with a specialist the next week. Her mom looks worried. I’d better take off work and go with her, she thinks.

Sunday morning she has coffee duty, so she leaves early for church. During the sermon about the love of Christ, she is filled with a desire to serve the Lord. But we are already so busy. Besides, how does God want me to serve Him?

She does not realize she has been serving Him. What she does for her kids, her husband, her mother, her church, her community and even her customers at the diner is serving her neighbor. And God has placed her in each of these roles.

Called by God

One of the most profound and yet strangely neglected teachings of Christianity is the doctrine of vocation. The term is simply the Latin word for calling, and it has to do with God calling us into many different tasks and relationships, all of which become specific avenues for service.

Ephesians 4:16, says, “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work,” and Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Together these Scriptures say much about God’s thoughts on work.

Serving where you are called

Martin Luther unpacked what the Bible says about how we are to live our Christian faith in our different callings.

He said, for example, that when we pray the Lord’s Prayer and ask God to give us our daily bread, He does give us our daily bread. And He does it through the vocation of the farmer, who grew the grain; the miller, who ground it into flour; and the baker, who cooked the loaf.

We would add the factory workers who built the farmer’s tractor, the bankers who lent him the money to buy the field, the truck drivers, the warehouse workers, the stock boy, the lady at the checkout counter and the person who prepared our meal.

When we sit down at the table, we return thanks to God, and, indeed, He is the one who provides for all of our needs. But God uses human beings to distribute His blessings.

To use another of Luther’s examples, when God resolved to populate the earth, He could have just created as many people as He wanted from the dust, just as He created Adam. But instead, God chose to create new life — one of His most stupendous miracles — by means of mothers and fathers. God established the family, calling specific men and women into the vocation of marriage and then giving some of them the additional vocation of parent.

It is still God who creates and cares for children, but He does so through ordinary men and women.

Directed by God

We have callings in the family, the workplace, the church and the community. Even within these areas, our vocations are many — in the family, the same person may have a calling as a wife, mother and daughter.

In the workplace, a person exercises particular God-given talents. We have callings in our churches, whether we are pastors, choir members, committee members or have coffee duty. And since God has placed us in a particular society, our citizenship is also a vocation.

Luther rightly said that God does not need our good works but our neighbor does. Christ calls us to live our faith by loving and serving the people He brings into our lives, our neighbors (Matthew 22:34-40).

Not only that, but Christ also says He is present in our neighbor in need.

What it looks like

Jesus said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me” (Matthew 25:40).

So, when you feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick, visit prisoners and welcome strangers, you are serving Christ.

This can happen on the road to Jericho, as with the good Samaritan, or it can happen when we serve people at a homeless shelter or the local pregnancy resource center. It also happens every day in our various offices and businesses.

The purpose of every vocation, from God’s perspective, is to love and serve others. No company could stay in business unless it turned out a product or a service that helped people in some way.

  • In our jobs, we love and serve our customers and fellow employees.
  • In the vocation of marriage, we love and serve our spouse. Parents love and serve their children.
  • In the church, we love and serve our fellow believers.
  • In our citizenship, we love and serve our fellow citizens in the way we vote and in the policies we support.

The Christian life is one of service — be it serving in an organized fashion or in quieter, day-to-day tasks and relationships, which God has called us to.

This article first appeared in the General version of the April, 2006 issue of Focus on the Family magazine. Copyright © 2006, Gene Veith. All rights reserved.

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