Serve at Work: Doing vs Being

by | Apr 27, 2023

It should be no surprise that leaders who follow Jesus prioritize serving, and they serve at work. The New Testament is filled with examples of how he humbled himself to meet the needs of those around him, but I want to focus on two passages that you are probably familiar with.

I’d bet you have imagined this first scene dozens of times over the years. Jesus was surrounded by the twelve men he had been walking with for the last three years. He had called them, taught them, invested in them, released them to do ministry, and now was preparing them for His departure. They were in a borrowed room celebrating the Passover. This was the annual, the very predictable meal that the Jewish people had celebrated for generations. The disciples had observed this meal in all its invariability since they were boys. Everyone knew the script for the evening, but Jesus did something completely unexpected.

He got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:4-5, NIV)

Jesus saw a need and lowered himself to meet it. He was willing to do the tasks anyone could do. That is an important starting point, but I would be remiss if I left us thinking that serving at work is only about doing acts of service that no one else seems willing to do.

As John’s gospel continues, we see Jesus’ servant leadership take on a different dimension as an avalanche of events unfolds quickly: Judas’ betrayal, Jesus’ arrest, Peter’s denial, the leaders’ interrogation of Jesus, and ultimately his crucifixion. Through all of this, we see that our serving savior was not only willing to do the tasks anyone could do, he was willing to do the tasks only he could do.

Your role is not to save the world, but there are things that only you can do. Things that you were uniquely designed to do. Things that God planned in advance for you to do. Things that your team, your customers, and your company need you to do. One of our Workmatters Institute speakers recently wisely pointed out, “Saying yes to every task that anyone can do will soon take you away from the tasks only you can do.”

How are you doing with that? Is your desire to show people that nothing is beneath you hindering the attention you can give to the specific contributions only you can make at work?

Hang with me here…it may seem like a left turn but go with me.

Early in the first century, there was a story written about Zeus and Hermes making a visit to earth. The two Greek gods disguised themselves as lowly servants and milled among the mortals, listening in on what people were saying about them and paying attention to who might show them hospitality. Long story short, they did not like what they discovered. So, in their anger, they threw off their tattered garments and revealed themselves in all their Olympic splendor. Their appearance as servants was all a ruse.

About 50 years later, Paul wrote a letter to his friends in Philippi. In chapter two, he paints a very different picture of the God of Israel made flesh in Jesus.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. (Philippians 2:5-7, NIV)

Serving wasn’t just what Jesus did. He wasn’t wearing the costume of a servant, playing a role, or hiding his identity. Serving was at the core of who Jesus was.

This is the one we follow. The one whose every action is for the glory of God and the benefit of others.

Take a moment to look at your work calendar and to-do list. Are there only tasks that move the projects you’re working on forward, or do you plug in time to serve your coworkers? Are you intentionally taking time to grow your relationships and get to know everyone in your office? Is there something you excel in that could benefit a project you’re not on?

Like most of our other Pillars of Faith and Work, doing is a start – being is the goal. When you seek out ways to serve others, even the small things like memorizing everyone’s names or bringing someone a coffee, you are creating the foundation for change that will turn doing into being.

Photo of Darrel Harvey

Darrel Harvey

Darrel Harvey, Director of the Workmatters Institute, joined the Workmatters team in March of 2019. Before joining the Workmatters team, his vocation had been expressed as a church planter, pastor, mentor, entrepreneur, and as a connector in the Bentonville business community.