I’ve heard that the purest human love in the world is the love a mother has for her child. A mother denies herself constantly day and night, doing many lowly tasks for her child because of love. If the child has a dirty diaper, she never says ‘that’s not my gift’. She changes the diaper because it’s a need of the child whom she loves. She changes thousands of diapers because of love. She wakes up all early hours of the morning to comfort and feed her baby because of love.
A mother’s eyes are continually scanning and watching to meet every one of her child’s needs, and she’s quick to act if the baby cries. This is all because of love.
A mother doesn’t receive anything in return. That child never shows any appreciation, except to cry and scream for more milk, more diaper changes, more cuddling. What pure love a mother has to continue to serve this child!
In every area of life I believe we can see this principle: pure love makes a servant. Love produces a servant, and a servant is one who is eager to constantly watch for the needs of others, and willing to deny his or herself (without expecting anything in return) for the sake of those needs.
Matthew 25:40 “‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”
In Matthew 25:40 Jesus said that doing little deeds such as visiting the sick or giving a drink to someone, it's just like we are doing it for Jesus Himself. A person who is only interested in doing great and extravagant things is no servant of Jesus.
Image a man in a local church who wants to be helpful, and so he asks the elders if he can help serve. He is told that the church needs help with cleaning after the meetings. He responds “That’s not my gift.” In other words – he wants to do something greater, something bigger than scrubbing toilets and vacuuming floors. “Only then can I really make a difference in the church. I want to do great things for the church.” Can we say that a man like this has love for his church? I don’t believe we can say he has much love for the church or that his love for the church is pure, because he is not like a mother – he doesn’t care about the lowly needs he can help with, he cares primarily about how great and extravagant his task will be. He figures, if he does significant things then that makes him significant. But Jesus said that’s not true at all:
“The greatest among you must be a servant” – Matt 23:11
I remember being humbled by the example I saw one time of a man in a very high position who was at home cleaning up the house and picking up some garbage off of the ground while his family was relaxing on the couch. I thought “Wow, this man doesn’t care about his position, he just sees a need and takes care of it.” And even to this day when I think back it makes me want to be like that!
So if I want to be like that, the question is – what are the needs the Lord wants me to be watchful for? What the Lord needs from me comes first, and the needs of others come second. My needs come last. I remember the acronym for this as J.O.Y. - Jesus, Others, Yourself. If I prioritize the needs I see in that order - of Jesus first, others second, and myself last – I believe this is the path to being a joyful servant of the Lord.
Here are some examples: the Lord needs me to deny myself and be obedient in this temptation, the Lord needs me to be careful with my words in this conversation, the church needs to have chairs setup before the meeting, this brother needs an encouraging word, my wife needs help cleaning the living room, my coworker needs help getting his project out on time. The needs are daily and frequent, and they require a self-denial on my part for the sake of others, and a “considering others as more important than myself” (Php 2:3). And if I am filled with God’s love in my heart I will be constantly scanning and watching, how can I meet the needs of the Lord, and the needs of others that God wants me to meet.
Like Jesus who washed His disciple’s feet when they were dirty and needed cleaning (John 13), may God fill our hearts with the same love that will make us into servants of love like our Lord Jesus. Servants who will not live primarily for ourselves, but continually have this “scanning” in our hearts – “Lord, what are the needs right now you want me to be aware of, and what shall I do about them?”