This is it – the last topic in our seven week “PAUSE: Make space for God” series.
When we serve others, we are serving the Lord: “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” (Matt. 25)
When we think about serving others, we usually focus on people’s physical needs. “Service trips” often include things like volunteering at a soup kitchen, building homes for the homeless, or picking up trash. These are all good ways to serve others. However, in ancient times people cared more about how they could serve others on a spiritual level. They wanted to serve a person’s soul and not just their body. In fact, in ancient times people understood the groups of people mentioned in the passage above in a spiritual way:
- Hungry = Those who desire goodness
- Thirsty = Those who desire truth
- Sojourner = Those who are willing to be instructed
- Naked = Those who acknowledge that they have no good and truth from themselves
- Sick= Those who acknowledge they are in evil
- Prisoners = Those who acknowledge they are in falsities
There is a lot that could be said about serving people on a spiritual level. Here are two things to consider:
- In some ways serving someone on a spiritual level requires more wisdom and prudence than serving someone on a merely natural level. Figuring out that someone needs to be physically fed or needs help building a new home is pretty easy. However, understanding that a person has a “hungering” heart and mind is a lot harder. I can feed a hungry body by simply handing over a loaf of bread. How do I feed a hungry soul?
- I’ve been very struck this week by the idea that to serve someone on a spiritual level I need to genuinely get to know them. We live in a society where people tend to live very isolated lives. We pack our days with so many things that we forget to make time for those human relationships that matter so much in life. Yet how can I give a spiritual drink to someone when I haven’t even asked them what kind of drink they want? How can I heal my brother when I haven’t taken the time to find out what is ailing him? We’re very good at making small talk with each other. But who in your life do you know well enough and on a deep enough level that you could serve them spiritually?
So I guess that when I ask myself “How does the Lord want me to serve others,” I realize that I need to start by making more time for people in my life. Only then can the Lord open my eyes and help me to see those who may be spiritually hurting and need my help. Serving others is not something I can do if I keep the people around me at arms length. I can’t serve others in the way the Lord wants me to by writing a check or hammering some shingles down on a house. I think that the Lord wants me to do these things, but He also wants me to genuinely open my heart to people and get to know them. Only then can I fully serve my neighbor and allow them to serve me in return.
Those who are spiritually hungry, thirsty, sojourning, naked, sick, and in prison are all around us. Will we take the time to see them, come to them, and serve them?