How May I Serve You?

I was asked a question today that I don’t think anyone has ever asked me in an honest and sincere way. That question was, “What do you need from me? How can I help you?” My pastor’s question stopped me cold in my tracks. I’m not sure I can recall a time where anyone, even a pastor, has ever asked me that before…and it was extremely humbling.

When I used to go through the lunch line in high school, the cafeteria workers were trained to say, “How may I serve you?” As high school students, we always thought this was a funny question and we would try to imitate the flat, insincere way in which the employees stated the phrase each day while they slopped the food onto our trays. As we sat down to eat together, we discussed the quality/quantity, or lack thereof, of our lunches. These loyal cafeteria workers had thankless jobs. We kids didn’t appreciate their work, sacrifice, time on their feet,  their labor-intensive work, or their service. We just complained about some insignificant detail about the lunch they served us. Yet, every day, these cafeteria workers, showed up, waited for us to move in front of them, and would ask each student the same question, “How may I serve you?” The typical response they got was, I’ll have the nachos, pizza, chicken, or whatever. Occasionally this southern girl may have remembered to say “please and thank you,” but if I’m being honest, I’m sure I didn’t say it as often as I should have.

In Mark 10:45, Jesus addressed His disciples and stated, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Have you ever thought about the significance and the depth of Jesus’ statement? This is a two-part mission. I’d like to focus on the first part of that mission for the moment, which is that Jesus came to serve us. I believe that the Scriptures only provide a very small glimpse into Jesus’ ministry of service. All four Gospels give similar, but slightly different, accounts of the same stories, miracles, and actions. We only know about the ones recorded. We have no idea about Jesus’ other acts of service that aren’t recorded. In fact the last verse in the Gospel of John states, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 21:25) You see scripture has only given us a partial glimpse into Jesus’ call to serve others.

If you approached your job/career from the point of view that you are serving others each day, how would your attitude about your work, career, or your employer change? Would you be able to continue doing what you do every day, all day? Would you demand a higher salary or more vacation time? Would you take more autonomy over whom you interact with each day? How would you choose to be a blessing to others? Would you work tirelessly, beyond the required hours, and expect nothing in return?

I believe that each person possesses unique gifts, talents, and strengths that he/she brings to the workplace. Each person has an opportunity to serve his/her customers, employers, employees, and co-workers in a unique way every day. How would these people respond if you entered work each day by asking the question, “How may I serve you?”

Many people don’t think about it this way, but there’s a big difference between having a job and having a career. A J-O-B is a task that you perform and receive an agreed upon wage. A career is a demonstration of your strengths and your mission, and how you can make things better for others by sharing your time, expertise, education, training, and talents. A career is something that ends up calling you, and calls you to a place where you can thrive, lead, grow, and ultimately serve others too. Hopefully that career becomes something that you enjoy doing. Hopefully that career provides some level of service and satisfaction for you, so that you could ultimately ask, with a sincere heart, “How may I serve you?”