Christmas Gifts: The Gift of Service
To Serve Man
I love the holidays. Ever since I was a kid I have loved this time of the year. I loved it for a few reasons. Obviously, I loved it for spending time with my family and eating and laughing and opening presents, but I also waited all year for one thing. I waited all year for the Twilight Zone marathon. My cousins and I would huddle together around my grandparents’ little television in their basement in West Orange, NJ and watch the New Year’s Eve marathon. One episode, a classic, is titled, “To Serve Man.” In this episode, earth is visited by spaceships carrying a large race of aliens called the Kanamits. At first the earthlings are skeptical of these Kanamits, but as they learn more and more, it seems they come in peace. The aliens shared advances in science and technology. They shared farming techniques and showed real care to the inhabitants of earth. They brought with them a book. This book looked like a Bible or a manual of some sort. It was written in their language and government code breakers were trying to determine what it was. The government specialists cracked the code and the title appeared to be, “To Serve Man.” What great news! They were there to serve! As time progressed, people were boarding ships to go and visit the Kanamits’ home planet. Spoiler alert, upon further investigation, a government agent runs towards the ship shouting to a colleague that the book was not titled, “To Serve Man.” The book was titled, “How to Serve Man.” It’s a cookbook!
In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul outlines different gifts of the Spirit. One of these gifts is the gift of service. In his letter to the Romans, Paul uses the word Diakonia (dee-ah-kah-nee-ah) which means administration or service; serviceable labor. This is where we get the word Deacon. I never thought I had much to contribute. When I heard service, I thought missions or full time ministry. Growing up in the church not feeling like I had anything to give felt awkward. I learned over time that service did not mean hopping on a plane and jetting over to Zimbabwe to feed orphans or build a hospital. For some of you that might be what it means, but not for most of you. I learned that giving of your time as well as your finances and talents are service as well. I have played worship in corporate gatherings for over seventeen years. I have taught VBS classes, been a day-camp counselor and spent some time among homeless individuals in Florida. Without realizing it, I had been serving!
What about you? Have you experienced the gift of service? How did it make you feel? My wife and I have been broke and received service in the form of financial blessing. We have also been able to sacrificially give when we did not think it was possible. It is no mystery that serving feels good. Knowing that you have impacted someone in that way feels great! On one very practical level, seeing the joy and gratefulness service can bring hits us in the feels. However, the reality is that we feel that way because we are operating in the Spirit. Why do we serve? Well, if we are called to be Christ-like, take a look at the Gospel of Mark. Chapter ten and verse forty-five reads, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus came to serve and so we also, should serve. What does this have to do with Kanamits? We need to be careful that our motives are not cloudy. When you have served in the past, did you receive praise from people around you? Felt nice didn’t it? We need to be careful that we do not let pride sneak in. It can be too easy to fall into the church groupie camp and just spend all of our time being seen on committees and seen doing various acts of service. We have to be mindful that we do not become like the proud Pharisee praying out loud in the temple. We need to be more like the humble, broken tax-collector quietly confessing.
Enough of that – I did not come here to lecture you. I want you to know two things. You may not feel like you are serving, but service does not look the same in everyone. We cannot all be feet and we cannot all be hands. We are not all international missionaries and we are not all called to preach sermons. The same way that there are many gifts but one Spirit, there are many parts but one body. Each of us has a part to play in the body of Christ. You may already be serving in ways you do not realize. You will also notice that the gift of service, like all of the other gifts of the Spirit, is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it becomes. Like Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians, the more we serve, the more we will find ourselves privileged to do so. So this holiday season, don’t be like the Kanamits. Don’t have cloudy motives while you are serving. Recognize that you have your part to play and that your identity does not lie in the praises of man but in the person of Jesus.