A Devotion by Joe G
Putting others first
There’s a story I like to share (I’ve shared it in devotions before, as well as my book, “Adventures in Youth Ministry”) that epitomizes being a servant and putting others before yourself.
One Sunday evening during youth group, I handed out paper and pens to each student. First, I asked them to write down one or two ways we could serve others in our community. Then, after a few minutes, I asked each of them to share what they had written.
Several had difficulty coming up with an idea, or at least a new one. The group already delivered bags of groceries to needy families monthly. And during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, they provided between 70 and 80 bags of groceries.
The students also filled gallon-size plastic bags with food to hand out to needy people; our congregation met along the road of life (Street Eats). They also helped at congregational dinners. I could go on and on.
Let’s get back to Sunday and the aforementioned youth night. One student’s answer stood out. He raised his hand and said, “We could go to the mall and open the door for people as they enter the building.” As I’ve said, several other students dismissively laughed at the idea. As for me, my mouth dropped open, and then I said, “What an awesome idea.”
I stood up and said, “Let’s do it!” (I’m not sure if my students ever got used to my spontaneity in doing things without a plan). So, the group and I jumped into the church van and drove to our local mall, just 4 blocks from our church.
I parked the van, and the group went to the mall entrance where the movie theater is. The students stood at all the doors and opened them for people coming in and out of the mall.
That’s when something amazing happened. Whenever one of my students opened the door for someone, they would say, “Have a blessed day.” In almost every case, the person entering or leaving the mall replied, “Thank You, or Thank you, you too.”
For the next few years, this door-opening endeavor grew. Everywhere the group went, several students would open the door for the rest of the group and anyone else entering or leaving a building. For example, if we went to a restaurant, they held the door open for the group and other patrons. Literally, everywhere we went, without any encouragement from me, door opening for the group and others became a servant tradition, not a chore.
2 Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than ourselves. “
This passage alone is quite powerful. This was a very new idea in the first century.
Actually, the whole concept of selflessness, humility, and putting others first seems to have lost its importance once again in this day and age, hasn’t it.
Allow me to add 2 Philippians 2:4 to the mix,
“Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.”
Now, let’s put the thoughts of the above two passages together.
Don’t be selfish, but rather be humble, putting others first. Yes, it’s okay to take care of our own interests and needs, such as work, taking care of our family, entertainment, hobbies, etc. But it’s important we also take care of the interests and needs of others.
Think about the students at the mall opening doors and exchanging greetings with others. In the busyness of our lives, many, if not most of us, would walk into the mall or any other building and not think twice about holding the door open for someone else.
Now take a moment and envision holding the door open for one person every time you walk into a building. How do you think that makes the next person feel? And how does that make you feel when they say thank you to you? It makes me think that there is still hope for humanity. It shows me that sharing human kindness with another and putting them above your own busyness or needs for a moment can bring joy to someone’s day.
This devotion isn’t about helping others. It’s about being Christ-like. Jesus stopped in the middle of a crowded street and healed a woman who had suffered from bleeding for 12 years. Jesus healed ten lepers and preached the Good News of the Kingdom of God. Those mentioned above are just a few incidents where Christ put others first. He did it tirelessly 2000 years ago, and He still listens to our cries for help and makes us a priority.
Let’s all be more like Jesus. Put others’ needs before your own and show the love of Christ to everyone you meet.