“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
Mother Teresa stands as one of the best examples of a Christian servant in the twentieth century. Drawn to missions early in life, she dedicated decades to living among and serving the impoverished people of Calcutta, India. She once said that her call to minister was not derived from pity; rather, it was a clear call from God: “I was sure it was God’s voice. I was certain He was calling me. The message was clear: I must leave the convent to help the poor by living among them. This was a command, something to be done, something definite.I knew where I had to be.” She served humbly, not to earn favor with God, but to obey Him. And her story shows how integrally service and humility are connected. As we serve, we give up our agendas, our energy, our desires, and even our flesh. This humbling process, though painful, brings great joy. In fact, Teresa’s ministry was known for creating “an atmosphere of joy” wherever they went.
the greatness of humility
In his book Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster expertly weaves a connection between service and humility: “Of all the classical Spiritual Disciplines, service is the most conducive to the growth of humility. When we set out on a consciously chosen course of action that accents the good of others and is, for the most part, a hidden work, a deep change occurs in our spirits.” The change is this: we start to look more and more like Jesus.
The incarnation—Jesus putting on human flesh and coming to earth as a man—is not only a cornerstone of Christian theology. It is an overturning of the worldly belief that humility and greatness are mutually exclusive. Jesus’ greatness was exemplified in His humble service. After coming to earth as a man and dying on the cross, “God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9–11).
Jesus’ crucifixion on a Roman cross was an act of ultimate humility. But it was far from His only act of humility. In fact, He lived his life in humble service to the Father. We see this in His interruptibility (Matthew 9:18–26), His compassion (Luke 7:13; Matthew 23:37), His acts of healing (Matthew 8:16), His devotion to prayer (Luke 6:12), His love for children (Matthew 19:14), and His concern for the oppressed and forsaken (Luke 4:18–19).
following christ in service
In everyday life, we can be humble servants by emulating Jesus. When someone interrupts us during a hectic day at work, we can show patience. When a friend calls after a hard day, we can set aside the to-do list and listen. When we hear of a church member who is in the hospital, we can visit her. When a natural disaster takes place in our community, we can serve on the rebuilding team or provide supplies.
Today, you only need to take one step forward. One small step of service. And, as others see your good works, they will “glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16)!