Romans 12:7a (Lesson 2)
The Spiritual Gift of Service
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 12:7a (Holman) . . .if service, in service;
The gift of service is a God-given empowerment enabling us to gladly perform practical acts of service to the personal needs of others in Jesus’ name. The Greek word implied a slave’s work, the humblest service of one for another.
Our Lord said He came to serve, not to be served (Matthew 20:28). Thus it is no surprise that service is one of the gifts most often claimed by His followers.
Not every believer has the spiritual gift of service, but all believers are to serve. Sometimes a person will justify harshness, indifference, or laziness by saying they don’t have this gift. This claim is bogus. Serving others has to be a priority for us all. Kindness, Christianity in action, is expected of every believer.
People with the gift of service set the standard for the rest of us. This trait is vital, not peripheral, to what we are about as a church. We may not all share the exuberance of servants, but none of us should ever feel too good to stoop.
We should all serve and help when situations present themselves to us. If we ever feel hesitant to serve, say to ourselves, “My Master washed feet.” Thank you, dear servants, for demonstrating again and again the spirit of our precious Savior.
It is difficult to over-estimate the importance Paul and early believers placed on this gift. Paul travelled over 900 miles, from Corinth all the way to Jerusalem, to carry an offering to the poor saints there. The early church set aside an order of servants in Acts 6 to see that this vital work of service was not neglected.
Compassion for the less fortunate must be a priority in our churches. We cannot leave this to happenstance. Service is the kind of thing that can easily get lost in the busy shuffle of a congregation. Therefore, it must not be left to chance.
We have to find those who have the spiritual gift of service, put value on them, and urge their whole-hearted commitment to leading us in this work. Thus we ask, who are these people? All are to serve, but how do we know if we are in the some who have the spiritual gift of service? A few traits may help us know.
One, you must serve, and see if it resonates with you. Spiritual gifts are found more by trial and error than by taking spiritual gifts tests. Our church offers many opportunities you can try: Labor for Your Neighbor, event volunteers, Victory Garden, Victory Mission meals, Media Ministry, Teddy Bear Ministry, Awana, the Vine college ministry, Flower and Bread Ministries, Stephen Ministry, baptism volunteers, groups, Special Needs, etc. Find a place to try, and have at it.
Two, servants are drawn to people and projects needing help. They don’t have to have to have their arm twisted to serve. Their antennas are always up, looking for ways to pitch in. They see what needs to be done and gladly do it.
If a classroom is in shambles at class time, a person with discernment will say, “Someone missed an assignment.” An administrator says, “Find a custodian.” A person with wisdom would say, “We should check our room earlier each week.” A person with the gift of giving comments, “We must pay our custodians more.” The teacher would say, “Oh no, what am I to do? I can’t teach in chaos like this.”
While others ruminate, and wax eloquent, servants start rearranging chairs and picking up trash. They have the room in order in about two minutes, finding as much satisfaction in doing this as the teacher will later find in teaching the lesson.
A Bible model for servants is Dorcas, who “was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity, which she continually did” (Acts 9:36b NAS). “Abounding” is the key word here. People with the gift of service gladly do dishes, take out garbage, clean floors, set up tables, visit the homebound, take food to the sick, care for the poor, greet strangers at the door, help older adults navigate stairs, etc. They ever seek ways to minister a kindness to others, and are thrilled to do so.
Three, servants do not crave the limelight. In fact, they often find attention to be a detriment. Quietly working behind the scenes is okay. A helper enjoys sincere appreciation, a simple thank you, but is embarrassed by public recognition.
This is one reason I know I do not have the gift of service. I never regretted applause or public recognition. I enjoy seeing my name in lights or in big letters on the program. Christ-followers like me desperately need the example of servants.
Four, servants have an extraordinary love for Jesus. The Bible teaches us; all who give to the poor give to the Lord who will repay the gift (Proverbs 19:17).
Matthew 25:34-40 carries this idea further. To feed the hungry is to feed the Lord. To give water to the thirsty is to give a drink to Jesus. To take in a stranger is receiving Jesus. To clothe the naked means to cover the Master. To visit the sick is the same as visiting the Lord. To visit those in prison is to spend time with Jesus.
Every deed of service, every act of compassion, is a gift given to the Lord. Therefore, it provides us a way to express this love we have in our heart for Jesus.
If serving others is a way for us to give to Jesus, then help us find people who need service. We don’t want to wait until they come to us. Seek them out.
People with the gift of service must try serving and see if it resonates, are drawn to people and projects needing help, do not crave the limelight, and have an extraordinary love for Jesus. But, as with all spiritual gifts, service has dangers.
One, forgetting the difference between spiritual service and what we commonly term social services. Deeds of compassion within the fellowship are not the same as those done by the government and other secular organizations. This does not mean we underappreciate the latter. We are grateful for everything done to help the disenfranchised. I am merely trying to define the difference.
A Christ-follower does spiritual service in the name of Jesus. All we do is done to let Jesus love people through us. We want others to know it is ultimately His compassion, not ours, flowing through our deeds. We do what we do in order to make a good impression on others for Jesus. In our deeds of compassion Jesus should somehow be honored. I do not mean we should blow a horn, or carry a Jesus sign. But we do need to somehow find a way to let people see Jesus in us.
Two, exhaustion. People with the spiritual gift of service can find it hard to say no to every need. They gladly serve to the point of exhaustion, regretting there isn’t more to do. As a result, often their families suffer. (This can be a danger for all the gifts.) People bragging on our serving and saying thanks can be addicting.
Others may show more appreciation for us than our own family does. But remember, our families must not be neglected. We have to minister to them first.
Three, failing to know service requires spiritual empowerment. In Acts 6 the seven men who were set apart for the work of serving had to be “full of faith and the Holy Ghost.” Since serving is spiritual work, it requires constant spiritual renewal. You know I have to seek God’s anointing to enhance my gift of teaching. In the same way, those involved in service must constantly seek help from above.
Stay in prayer, read the word, commune with Jesus. Spiritual work drains us. We must always renew our inner strength. One day Spurgeon looked out a window above a city square. People were coming to draw from the town’s water pump.
One man, with a yoke over his shoulders carrying two large buckets, kept returning again and again through the day. The preacher said he learned a lesson from that water carrier. It was obvious the man was not drawing for himself only.
He was working to provide water for many people. Since he had many to carry water to, he had to come to the source more often than others did.
The same is true of all who serve. You carry living water to others. Your supply of strength will quickly diminish unless you are constantly replenishing it.