Gotta ‘Serve’ Somebody [v156]


Gotta ‘Serve’ Somebody

Years ago, Bob Dylan recorded a song called “Gotta Serve Somebody.” His message was that no matter your station in life, no matter how independent, self-sufficient, or in-control you might try to be—or think you are—you will still ‘serve’ something or somebody.

The word “serve” here is important. Webster’s first definition of it is “an act of helpful activity or unselfish aid”—very similar to the definition of “kindness.”

The first thing that comes to my mind when I read this, is something I did when I was a young boy—though it’s principles have guided and stayed with me all these years…the Boy Scouts.

Scouting has, from its inception, been deeply rooted in the concept of doing for others. “Do a Good Turn Daily” is a core Scouting precept. In addition to that, Scouting’s “National Honor Society” ‘expanded’ that principle into those of brotherhood, cheerfulness, and service.

– Brotherhood: Seeing things from someone else’s viewpoint, and working together to solve their problems
– Cheerfulness: Approaching and interacting with others in a polite and enthusiastic way, even when the task at hand may seem unpleasant
– Service: Going out of your way to help others while asking for nothing in return

Even the business ‘world’ agrees that serving others through a commitment to these principles drives customer loyalty and retention. They believe that how well they serve their constituents, members, customers, or co-workers is ultimately measured with a ballot, a decision to join or stay, or with the currency ‘consumers’ use to buy their products or services.

I’ve got to believe that most of us can say that, most of the time, helping another person makes us feel good—and as a ‘happy consequence’, it also makes us more appealing to others, increases the sense of goodwill, which then can build unity and responsibility in a ‘community’—because most people admire those who help others.

Not surprisingly, the adage that “it’s better to give than to receive” has scientific underpinnings. According to the “National and Community Service Corporation,” helping others contributes to your overall health and sense of personal worth. This, in turn, strengthens the sense of shared human experience and goals. Despite wars and other serious disagreements, people tend to prefer to get along with each other.

Helping another person, even in small acts, adds up to creating a better, more generous, and more resourceful you. By helping others you are more likely to meet interesting people, discover important things, and experience new points of view that improve the quality of your life. The richer your interpersonal connections, the more knowledge you have to draw from, whether it be related to jobs, family, or health. When you come to another’s aid, you are exhibiting selfless love that signals generosity and strength to onlookers. This has even been ‘proven’ scientifically.

Studies have shown that kindness changes the brain, impacts the heart and immune system, and may even be an antidote for depression. David R. Hamilton, researcher and author of the book “Why Kindness is Good For You,” says that we are “actually genetically wired to be kind.”

Other scientific research has also found that the hormone “oxytocin” acts like a ‘cement’ for trust and love. According to “Live Science,” oxytocin is linked to a mother’s bonding with her newborn, human mating, development of lasting friendships, and even day-to-day acts of generosity. Helping other people boosts your oxytocin, benefits your sense of connection, boosts your self-esteem, and even improves physical health by lowering your blood pressure!

A 2007 article in “Scientific American” cited a research study that further verified oxyocin makes people more generous. The study infused 40IU oxytocin into half the participants using a nasal spray, and similarly administered salt water to the other half, without them knowing which one they had received. Then they made decisions in the “Ultimatum Game” [ ] The study reported that the oxytocin increased generosity by 80% compared to the placebo group!

Not surprisingly, kindness has been a ‘trait’ that great thinkers and writers have celebrated down the centuries. The Roman philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius declared, “Kindness is mankind’s greatest delight.”

So, it is not that real kindness requires people to be selfless, it is rather that real kindness changes people in the doing of it, often in unpredictable ways. Real kindness is an exchange with essentially unpredictable consequences. It is a risk precisely because it mingles our needs and desires with the needs and desires of others, in a way that so-called self-interest never can.

Kindness is compassion in action.

That was the idea behind my church’s initiative during the recent “Advent” season.

Advent is the four-week period leading up to the celebration of Christmas. The word comes from the Latin, and means “to come toward.” When Jesus was born in Bethlehem He “came toward” us, to be with us, to be one of us.

So, every year during Advent my church thinks about what this means for our lives and for the world around us. In the Bible, John 1:9 says, “The One who is the true light, Who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” Jesus was the “light of the world” and as we extend help ‘in His name’, we shine that ‘light’ all around us.

That then was their goal—to impact individuals and communities around the church with Christ’s ‘light’.

So how did they do this? In two ways: Through participating in “hands-on ministry” and by giving resources or material gifts. They called the effort, “Advent Lights,” and it supported both places where people could give their time and energy, and options for giving of their financial resources and material gifts.

They selected a verse of Scripture from the Bible that was the guiding focus for the ministries that were selected—Matthew 25:35-36: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Using these verses from Matthew 25 as their guide, they identified a number of ways for the congregation to serve others in visible, tangible acts of mercy, compassion, and support. The following were the ministries that had a focus on one of the six ‘aspects’ in that Scripture:

ANGEL TREE: Helping bring the joy of Christmas to families of prisoners by providing gifts to the children ‘from’ the incarcerated parent, and a Christmas dinner for the family.

CAREER DRESS: Provides complete professional-quality interview ensembles to women. They consist of suits, shoes, handbags, jewelry, hose, and undergarments. When a job is secured, two additional outfits are provided.

CAROLING: Groups of all ages sang Christmas carols at a variety of nursing and senior care homes in the area, providing an emotional ‘lift’, some ‘excitement’, and the opportunity to interact with small children. They also caroled outside in the neighborhood that they will be building a new home this coming summer for the “Life Remodeled” movement.

COVENANT WORLD RELIEF: Responding to the needs of the world’s most vulnerable—the poor and marginalized—with humanitarian aid. Helping those suffering from extreme poverty, hunger, disease, and injustice.

DETROIT CHILDREN’S CHOIR: Giving over 150 middle-to-high school aged children living in Detroit the experience of the joy and discipline of choral singing, and the opportunity to travel to different venues.

DETROIT RESCUE MISSION: A homeless shelter and soup kitchen that also provides programs to help sobriety, parenting skills, employability skills, and free medical care to more than 5,000 men, women, and children.

HOMEBOUND VISITATIONS: One-on-one visits to provide comfort, support, conversation, and help with small chores for those who are not able to leave their homes.

LIFE CHALLENGE: A year-long addiction recovery residency program, for both men and women, offering help, healing, and hope to those who struggle with an addiction of any kind.

OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD: Part of “Samaritan’s Purse,” and organization that provides physical aid to victims of war, poverty, natural disaster, and disease. It distributes over eight million ‘shoeboxes’ filled with toys, school supplies, and hygiene items to needy children in over 130 countries.

NORTH AMERICAN JAPANESE OUTREACH: A ministry that helps the surrounding Japanese community adjust to life in the United States, and connect them into a supportive ‘community’.

[The following video shows highlights of most of the initiatives that were supported. Note: There are also additional videos on the FaithCovenantECC YouTube channel that show more details of what happened at the various events]:

At Christmas God shed His ‘light’ on the world through His Son, Jesus. We can also shine that ‘light’ into some dark ‘corners’ to brighten up people’s lives and give them hope by SERVING them. That’s why Jesus said, “…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven” [Matthew 5:16].

If one continues reading in Matthew chapter 25, Jesus tells a parable that ‘looked’ into the future to the “day of reckoning”—where all people will be separated into two ‘sections’. The thing is, only one ‘side’ will be welcomed into the joy and glory of Heaven. Jesus said those will be the people who ‘walked their talk’—the ones who fed the hungry, gave water to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the poor, tended to the sick, and ministered to the prisoner. Those turned away from Heaven will be those who, regardless of their verbal claims, ignored the hungry and thirsty, turned away from the stranger, the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned. Matthew 25 doesn’t catalogue all the ways that God’s people can live out their faith, but what it does describe is an active faith that visibly demonstrates the love so freely shared with them.

Jesus also mentions that the unselfish acts of mercy and compassion we do that are done to those in need, He will consider them as having been done to Himself. Likewise, for those too preoccupied with their own lives to worry about someone else, it will turn out that they have ignored Jesus, not just the needy. This says that these acts of mercy were not done to curry favor or impress, but were a genuine response to human need that arose out of hearts overflowing with God’s love. They were not performed because one “had to” or “ought to,” but because they “wanted to.”

So, we can see that God looks ‘favorably’ on these who serve unselfishly, and even more so of those who have chosen to serve others as a loving ‘servant’ of His!

All this to say that Dylan got it right, “Well it may be the devil and it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” You can search the Bible from cover to cover and you won’t find any example of ‘spiritual neutrality’. We all have the option whether or not to CHOOSE God or not.

So, just one question for you: Since everybody is going to serve ‘somebody’ (even yourself) or ‘something’, who or what are you centering your life on today?

Have you made your decision? “Who” will you serve?

[Excerpts from: Ken Larson; Meg Brannagan; Vitali Zagorodnov;]

[P.S.: If you would like to investigate further about what the Bible has to say about the motivation for living a good life and why we should be ‘good’, visit the following link:


If you have a ‘neat’ story or some thoughts about an issue or current event that you would like me to try to respond to, I would be glad to give it a try…so, send them to me at:

You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You might be a rock ’n’ roll addict prancing on the stage
You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage
You may be a businessman or some high-degree thief
They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may be a state trooper, you might be a young Turk
You may be the head of some big TV network
You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame
You may be living in another country under another name

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may be a construction worker working on a home
You may be living in a mansion or you might live in a dome
You might own guns and you might even own tanks
You might be somebody’s landlord, you might even own banks

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride
You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side
You may be workin’ in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair
You may be somebody’s mistress, may be somebody’s heir

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

Might like to wear cotton, might like to wear silk
Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk
You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread
You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may call me Terry, you may call me Timmy
You may call me Bobby, you may call me Zimmy
You may call me R.J., you may call me Ray
You may call me anything but no matter what you say

You’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

[Bob Dylan]

Doing a Google search of “service” returned millions of results—especially quotes by famous people. I think they say a lot about how important serving others really is:

“Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others, cannot keep it from themselves.”
[James M. Barrie]

“It is not the style of clothes one wears, neither the kind of automobile
one drives, nor the amount of money one has in the bank, that counts.
These mean nothing. It is simply service that measures success.”
[George Washington Carver]

“He who wishes to secure the good of others, has already secured his own.”

“My true religion is kindness.”
[Dalai Lama]

“If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain.
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.”
[Emily Dickinson]

“Service is the rent we pay to be living. It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time.”
[Marian Wright Edelman]

“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”
[Albert Einstein]

“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”
[Ralph Waldo Emerson]

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
[Anne Frank]

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
[Mohandas K. Gandhi]

“Never forget that the purpose for which a man lives is the improvement of the man himself, so that he may go out of this world having, in his great sphere or his small one, done some little good for his fellow creatures and labored a little to diminish the sin and sorrow that are in the world.”
[William E. Gladstone]

“Happiness cannot come from without. It must come from within. It is not what we see and touch or that which others do for us which makes us happy; it is that which we think and feel and do, first for the other fellow and then for ourselves.”
[Helen Keller]

“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
[John F. Kennedy]

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”
[Martin Luther King, Jr.]

“Kindness in words creates confidence.
Kindness in thinking creates profundity.
Kindness in giving creates love.”

“Six essential qualities that are the key to success: Sincerity, personal integrity, humility, courtesy, wisdom, charity.”
[William Menninger]

“One act of beneficence, one act of real usefulness, is worth all the abstract sentiment in the world.”
[Ann Radcliffe]

“Good deeds may be to feeling down what aspirins are to a headache. Do two good deeds and see how you feel. Repeat every four hours until you feel better. No maximum daily dose, no harmful side effects.”
[Gwen Randall-Young]

“The only ones among you who will be truly happy are those who
will have sought and found how to serve.”
[Albert Schweitzer]

“At the heart of silence is prayer.
At the heart of prayer is faith.
At the heart of faith is life.
At the heart of life is service.”
[Mother Teresa]

1. Smile
2. Hold or Get the Door for Someone
3. Help someone get where they want to be
4. Buy someone lunch
5. Pick up a hitch hiker
6. Provide Road Side Assistance
7. Mow Your Neighbors Lawn
8. Invite someone over for dinner
9. Give a gift certificate
10. Help someone achieve a goal
11. Share your dreams with someone
12. Shovel snow from more than your own walks
13. Write an article that helps people
14. Teach something specific that you know about
15. Listen intently in conversation
16. Always let others speak before you
17. Volunteer in your community
18. Host a homeless person overnight in your home
19. Donate money to a charity
20. Pick up loose garbage
21. Be a mentor to someone
22. Give away your old stuff
23. Buy someone a book
24. Be genuine with your apologies
25. Bring baked goods to work
26. Compliment someone
27. Help to organize charity event
28. Be sportsmanlike on sports teams
29. Encourage people
30. Give books you’ve read away
31. Be a friend to those who don’t deserve it
32. Support mission and aid workers
33. Share your creativity
34. Promote someone else’s idea
35. Tell someone they are your friend
36. Introduce a friend to someone they don’t know
37. Talk to people at parties who look “out of place”
38. Stay calm and don’t react in arguments
39. Support your loved ones no matter what
40. Share successes
41. Practice appreciate inquiry and positive dialog
42. Pay for the stranger’s coffee behind you in line
43. Offer your seat on the bus / train
44. Operate a blog and give away great content
45. Take on a project as a DIY with a friend
46. Accept others ideas without immediately judging them
47. Put and keep your cell phone out of site in conversation
48. Inspire others
49. Share appreciation aloud
50. Share gratitude in life
51. Demonstrate perseverance
52. Make moral decisions
53. Live ethically
54. Share your mistakes with others
55. Clap and cheer aloud
56. Tell me about yourself
57. Magnify someone’s kindness
58. Be willing to describe your vulnerabilities
59. Be humble
60. Choose to be happy
61. Admit your faith and beliefs
62. Ask open ended questions
63. Be a change agent
64. Avoid and guard against gossip
65. Live with purpose
66. Express your passions
67. Ask more questions than you answer
68. Hand write a personal thank you card
69. Take the blame
70. Keep excuses to your self
71. Apologize sincerely
72. Promote employee engagement
73. Give honest feedback
74. Tell stories
75. Control your response
76. Master your state of mind
77. Use the words, “Thank you.”
78. Be prepared
79. Stay healthy
80. Live with less stuff
81. Eliminate complaints
82. Keep emails positive
83. Communicate in person
84. Ask for help when needed
85. Use your talents
86. Practice patience
87. Protect forests
88. Forgive an action
89. Cancel a debt
90. Avoid the unimportant
91. Be enthusiastic
92. Donate blood
93. Use positive dialogue
94. Do extra household chores
95. Give anonymously
96. Leave a specific compliment with a tip
97. Say hello often to strangers
98. Keep your promises
99. Let love for others drive your life
100. Recognize when God calls you to serve

[Mike King – “Learn This”]

For more info:

As I read Keller’s examples of idolatry I saw how these subtle traps have played out with my family, friends, and colleagues. Most convicting of all I saw how chasing good things more than God has caused pain and brokenness in my own life. [An excerpt from Tim Keller’s book, “The Reason For God,” that deals with what we ‘focus’ our lives on.

“If you center your life and identity on your spouse or partner, you will be emotionally dependent, jealous, and controlling. The other person’s problems will be overwhelming to you.

If you center your life and identity on your family and children, you will try to live your life through your children until they resent you or have no self of their own. At worst, you may abuse them when they displease you.

If you center your life and identity on your work and career, you will be a driven workaholic and a boring, shallow person. At worst you will lose family and friends and, if your career goes poorly, develop deep depression.

If you center your life and identity on money and possessions, you’ll be eaten up by worry or jealousy about money. You’ll be willing to do unethical things to maintain your lifestyle, which will eventually blow up your life.

If you center your life and identity on pleasure, gratification, and comfort, you will find yourself getting addicted to something. You will become chained to the “escape strategies” by which you avoid the hardness of life.

If you center your life and identity on relationships and approval, you will be constantly overly hurt by criticism and thus always losing friends. You will fear confronting others and therefore will be a useless friend.

If you center your life and identity on a “noble cause,” you will divide the world into “good” and “bad” and demonize your opponents. Ironically, you will be controlled by your enemies. Without them, you have no purpose.

If you center your life and identity on religion and morality, you will, if you are living up to your moral standards, be proud, self-righteous, and cruel. If you don’t live up to your moral standards, your guilt will be utterly devastating.”

It is a hard truth to admit that we often worship the things of this world because they really can be good things. God in His loving grace does not desire for us to be deprived of good and pleasurable things. He simply wants us to place them in proper order. Later in the passage Paul gives one key to avoiding idolatry. (Colossians 3:10-11).

[Dave Burchett]

I recently picked up an interesting little book called “The Go-Giver” by Bob Burg. It is written in short story format, so it is a pretty fast read and well worth your time. If you like the concept of “Servant Leadership,” you will like this.

In it, the author identifies what he calls “The Five Laws of Stratospheric Success.” They are of course not “laws” at all, but I find them very appealing as principles for how we should conduct ourselves in business. The five “principles” are:

1. The Principle of Value: Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.
2. The Principle of Compensation: Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them.
3. The Principle of Influence: Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first.
4. The Principle of Authenticity: The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself.
5. The Principle of Receptivity: The key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving.

There is no real evidence that if we practiced these principles as a system our success would be guaranteed. There is no simple formula or recipe for success—sorry. But all of us have some set of underlying principles guiding our behavior, even if we have never made the effort to identify what they are.

If you are not satisfied with how you are operating right now, and you are willing to do something about it, give these principles a try. You might not make a million bucks when you put these into practice, but I have a hard time seeing how your relationships with others would not end up significantly more enriched.

[Bret L. Simmons]


“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve…you only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

[Martin Luther King, Jr.]

Hope you enjoyed some of these insights—share them with your friends and colleagues—so we can have a larger ‘pool’ to receive from, and more to share with! Also, remember to include your name as the “source,” if some of this wisdom is of your doing—I would like to give credit where credit is due!

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness;
and all these things shall be added unto you.”
[Matthew 6:33]



Disclaimer: All the above jokes & inspirations are obtained from various sources and copyright are used when known. Other than our name and headers, we do not own the copyright to any of the materials sent to this list. We just want to spread the ministry of God’s love and cheerfulness throughout the world.

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