Serving others is not always pretty and it’s certainly not easy, but this is the example we get from Jesus—and the opportunity to look more like Him.
In the late 1800’s, the great Dwight L. Moody was hosting one of his famous Northfield Bible Conferences in Massachusetts. These conferences attracted people from all around the world, as Moody’s dynamic preaching had become quite the global attraction. Pastors from Europe were attending one of these conferences when a dilemma popped up in the local dormitory. As everyone was winding down one evening, Moody noticed that the pastors from across the pond were leaving their shoes in the dorm hallway. He quickly learned that it was customary in Europe for hallway servants to take the visiting guests’ shoes and polish them overnight. However, he also learned that their American conference had a problem: they had no hallway servants!
Moody brought this problem to the attention of several young staff members, but unfortunately, he could see that none of them were going to bring resolution. This led him to wait until everyone went to sleep, and then he quietly returned to the hallway. He carefully picked up every pair of shoes, personally shined them in his room, and then returned them to each of the rooms of their respective owners. The next morning, the European pastors were pleased to see their shoes looking like new, and they had no idea that the morning’s keynote speaker also happened to be their hallway servant. D.L. Moody certainly did not have to shine those shoes. In fact, if anyone had a good excuse to pass on the job, it would have been him. So why did he choose to stay up late serving those pastors? I believe it is because Moody understood that we are all just a bunch of shoe shiners.
Every single Christian is called to a life of service. The Bible instructs us to serve others in obedience to Jesus (Matthew 7:12), but also in imitation of Jesus.
Paul explains, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:5-7 ESV)
When Jesus came to this world, He did not hold steadfast to His divine privilege. Instead, the Son of God stepped off His throne to take on the interests of man. For our sake, He lived the perfect life we could not live, He died the death we deserved, and He was raised on the third day to give us new life. It is clear that “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve” (Matthew 20:28).
As Christ followers, it is essential for us to walk in His likeness. When we lead like Jesus, we lead in a way that shines brightly in our dark world. Jesus led selflessly, but I think we would all agree that the world usually leads selfishly. Every day, people seek promotions at work so they can finally have subordinates under them. Men and women pursue marriage with the goal of finding someone to meet their own needs. Selfishness can even permeate into churches, as Christians often pursue titles and positions to garner personal influence and prestige. We are all by nature selfish people, so true servant leadership is so refreshing. Jesus instructs us to walk in this world as salt and light, and one of the best ways we can do so is by simply serving one another.
What shoes could you shine this week? In your home, you may be able to serve your family by simply slowing down and talking. Quality time centered on selfless and meaningful questions for the ones you love can be a beautiful act of service. Or your act of service may be to go out of your way to clean up the kitchen, fill up your spouse’s car with gas, or take him or her out on a thoughtful date.
At work, you could shine shoes by assisting on a project that’s technically beneath you. You could check in on your employees and take interest in their personal life.
At church, one of the greatest things you can ever do is ask your pastor, “what is our church’s greatest need right now?” And when you get that answer, do your part to meet that need. I’m going to warn you: the greatest need likely will not offer a prestigious title or a large audience. However, it will provide an opportunity to make a meaningful impact for the Kingdom of God. I don’t know what shoes you need to go shine this week, but I know that you are called to shine. Serve faithfully this week, because when you do, others get to see a small picture of the Gospel through you.
Pastor Jonathan serves as the Senior Pastor at Austin Baptist Church in Austin, TX. He is a proud Aggie (B.A. Political Science) and received his M.A. from Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary. He is currently pursuing his D.Min at Gateway Seminary in California. Jonathan and his wife Bethany have three amazing children: Emma, Jacob, and Daniel.