“If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.” — Isaiah 58:10 (ESV)
Imagine how the disciples must have felt when Jesus knelt down to wash their feet. The idea of the teacher serving the student — the king yielding to those he rules over — is unorthodox in this world. But in God’s kingdom, living a life of humility and service is both encouraged and rewarded.
The Bible tells us, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Hebrews 13:16, ESV).
Though COVID-19 has changed how we interact with others, there’s still room for staying true to the call to serve others. You never know who may be lonely or in need.
Here are 5 groups the Bible challenges us to serve and practical ways you can respond:
“Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honours him.” — Proverbs 14:31 (ESV)
When wondering how to serve others, helping the less fortunate is a good place to start. Food banks, shelters and other community organisations are in great need of volunteers. Care packages with necessities can make a big difference.
Also, poverty is not always obvious. There may be someone in your suburb who was recently laid off and is struggling to make ends meet. Leave a note on a neighbour’s door offering to have groceries and household items delivered if they are lacking. If you have children or grandchildren, teach them to serve others by donating some of their books and toys to a family.
If you’re unable to physically do something, seek God’s guidance on how and where to financially support organisations offering resources to the less fortunate.
“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.” — Proverbs 3:27 (ESV)
Because we serve a God of justice, seeing someone mistreated or marginalised should prompt us to act. When someone is oppressed, that feeling of being heavily burdened by adversity can be overwhelming. You can be an example of Christ’s love to them by showing care and compassion.
Remind the oppressed they are important and valuable — and do your part to treat them as such. Support a minority-owned business. Offer your time or talent to groups that help the persecuted church. Be vocal and take a stand when you encounter others not being treated equally.
“You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.” — Exodus 23:9 (NASB)
It’s not always easy to engage with those who are not like you or who you don’t know well. But being a “stranger” is something most of us can relate to. Whether it was a new job, moving to a new city, visiting a foreign country, going to a new school — the feeling of not knowing anyone, what to do or where to go can be daunting.
Make an effort to start more conversations with people you encounter daily, and be intentional to listen for ways you can help — and how you can share the hope of the Gospel.
Sometimes, serving is as simple as a kind gesture like helping someone get where they need to be or making helpful recommendations. You can also invite them to church — even if it’s to watch online.
In the midst of this pandemic, many are facing unexpected sickness, and some may be afraid as they fight to get better. You can be an encouragement with your service to the sick and shut in.
Offer to pray with them, even through a phone call. Billy Graham once said, “This should be the motto of every follower of Jesus Christ. No matter how dark and hopeless a situation might seem, never stop praying.”
You could also make greeting cards for patients at a nearby hospital. If you know someone under quarantine, offer to run errands, pick up medication or take care of chores outside of the home like mowing the grass. Consider serving those who are caring for the sick as well.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” — Galatians 6:2 (NKJV)
Billy Graham once said, “God is with us in the midst of the grief; in the midst of the suffering.” This is an important reminder for all who are facing tough times right now. Listening and offering encouraging words are comforting ways to serve this group. If you are suffering, serving others may actually help you cope. There are many Scriptures in the Bible that talk about giving to others even when you lack.
In addition to these practical suggestions, the greatest way you can serve the poor, oppressed, strangers, the sick and suffering is to pray fervently for each group and share the hope of Jesus every chance you get.