This holiday season, I was blessed with the opportunity to ring a bell for the Salvation Army a handful of times.
Over the years, I’ve come to realize as much work as that group does helping the homeless and even keeping families together, it is often short on volunteers.
That means the kettle campaigns see many stations unstaffed costing no idea how much in support that could be helping people directly in our communities, yet it is one of the easiest ways to volunteer time, simply having to ring a bell, direct donations to a bucket and smile and be nice to people passing by.
Throughout scripture, we’re called to serve others.
In the Gospels, Jesus reminds us multiple times that we are to put others first and ourselves last, much like he did for us in dying on the cross to take the punishment for our sins.
Throughout scripture, we see him serving others through healing, teaching and preventing people from coming to harm at the hands of others. Through it all, he has nothing to gain.
Hebrews 13:16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
The author of the book offers a simple reminder to share what we have with others and that it pleases God.
We also know that we’re meant to glorify God in all we do because of our understanding of what Jesus’s death on the cross meant for us — that we could be forgiven of our sins despite deserving punishment for them.
There’s nothing we can do to earn it from God, but once we’ve received that forgiveness, there’s also nothing we can do to earn anything more. Instead, we’re meant to glorify him out of appreciation and our changed hearts.
Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Paul reminds us in this letter to the church of the freedom we have from our sins and that we shouldn’t be pursuing our own gain but serving others instead.
In our culture today, serving others opens the door to share the story of Jesus to them when they wonder why we would do something like that.
And John shows us the opposite of this:
1 John 3:17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
If serving others can show Christ to them, withholding our help from someone who needs it can be a demonstration of someone who doesn’t know Jesus at all.
The Christmas season creates a greater willingness to help and serve others, but we have to remember, scripture calls us to this willingness year-round.
Scott Hilgendorff is the pastor for Cowboys of the Cross, a rodeo/bull riding ministry that leads cowboy church services at events and maintains an online presence to make disciples among the ranch and rodeo community. The ministry can be found at CowboysOfTheCross.com