Serving others is a foundational principle that Jesus laid out for us many times during His ministry on Earth. For example, in Mark 10:45, Jesus told His disciples that He had come “not to be served but to serve others.” Following the example of Jesus, we know that serving others is innately “others” focused. However, serving does have benefits to the person that is actually doing the serving. Here are four ways that serving others can actually benefit you.
Serving is life-giving.
When we serve, we avoid stagnation. Paul said it this way in Romans 12:1: “Therefore, I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Our service is in response to what Christ has done. On a recent trip to Israel, seeing the Dead Sea gave me a perfect example of stagnation. The healthy Sea of Galilee flows down the Jordan River right into the Dead Sea, where nothing can survive. The Dead Sea is literally “dead” because it has no river flowing out of it. In a similar way, a healthy, faith-filled life should have plenty of opportunity for outflow. Serving is spiritually life-giving for a follower of Jesus.
Serving creates a perspective of gratitude.
When we serve (especially the “least of these” as Jesus commanded), we are left with a healthy perspective of the blessings that God has given to us. Our culture today is filled with messages of “you don’t have enough,” and “work harder to gain more.” Creating a lifestyle of serving regularly reminds us of the blessings we have. Serving allows us to be content with what we have, while understanding that it could very well be US that needs to be served.
Serving actually teaches us.
When someone begins serving, the preconceived idea is that those who are served by us will receive all the benefit. You don’t have to serve very long to realize this is not true. I see this with volunteer leaders at my church all the time. A leader will often start their serving only seeing it as a one-way transaction, but as time goes on they begin to discover that God is using the students, the material, or even the process of preparing to actually teach them! To their surprise, serving is possibly blessing them more than the students or small group they lead!
Serving keeps our body healthy.
Several studies have been conducted that directly tie serving with lower stress and relief of pain. In 2013, the Harvard Medical School “Health Publications” blog posted an article titled: “Volunteering may be good for body and mind.” In the article, the author laid out the discoveries that were beginning to be made that directly tied volunteering with lower blood pressure, longer living, and reduced stress levels. Who knew that spending some time cleaning the yard of an elderly neighbor or serving food at a homeless shelter could lower stress?! You can read more about this study on the Harvard Health Publications Blog.
I can hear you saying it now, “serving to benefit me” sounds backwards? You are right. It does sound backward, and serving others for our benefit should never be the goal. In the Harvard Health study post mentioned earlier, there is evidence that volunteering for the wrong reasons might actually cancel out the health benefits that come with serving. Seems like God knew what He was doing when He created us to serve each other! For now, let’s go out and serve, because Jesus commanded it, knowing that GOD designed it so that we would receive WHILE we give!