A Deep Dive into Service, Generosity, and Hospitality

Photo by Nina Strehl on Unsplash

In our age and culture, humility is universally appreciated and widely regarded as a positive value and character trait, even amidst the “electioneering” of social media, the entertainment industry, and politics. We are naturally attracted to the humility of others. Conversely, we are also repulsed when there’s a lack of humility. We frequently read and hear about people with great power and wealth misusing it, and that never seems to sit well with us.

But it hasn’t always been like that. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 12 of my book Thriving by Following explaining some of the history of humility:

“In the ancient world of Greece and Rome, humility was only advisable before the gods (they could technically kill you). But to those who were considered equal or lesser, humility was exactly that: Humiliating. There was no virtue seen in debasing oneself in a world that loved reputation and honor above all else (evidenced by a highly stratified society). [1] The Parable of the Prodigal Son would have been extremely surprising to first-century audiences. A father (God) running toward his disobedient son (us)? But that would be humiliating!

When Jesus showed up on the scene, everything changed. Standing as a stark contrast to Greek and Roman culture, early Christians lauded themselves not in their class (they had none, for they were greatly persecuted), but in the fact that their risen Savior had died on the cross. At that time, death by crucifixion was the lowliest of all punishments. There was no honor or respect in it. But Christians pride it as the crowning jewel of their faith and hope. Instead of abhorring humility, it became the very trait we all hope to possess and live by.”

So, what is humility exactly?

Defining it can be a little tricky, but I’ve found this to be a good definition: “The noble choice to forgo your status and use your influence for the good of others before yourself. To hold power in service of others.” [2] It is not low self-esteem, humiliating ourselves, or hiding our talents and achievements. It is using our power for good in service of others. It is seeing the best in others and bringing it out. It is a way of living as Christ in this world, humbling ourselves just as He first humbled Himself for us.

Here are three areas through which humility can manifest itself in our hearts and lives:

Service

One of the most basic ways we can live humbly before God and others is by serving. We each have different gifts and blessings, given to us so that we could bless others, not so that we could hoard them for ourselves. No matter one’s political leaning, the truth is that no government can provide for every need. It is up to us to “fill the gaps.”

Being such a wide category, there a ton of practical ways we can make a rhythm and habit of serving others. Whatever you do though, stay consistent! Relationships require time, intentionality, and investments made over time.

Here are some ideas:

  • Volunteering at a local church, non-profit organization, or community project.
  • Starting your own community group that serves a local need.
  • Spend time with a family member, relative, or friend that might be going through a difficult season.

Generosity

Let’s get this out of the way from the get-go: being generous is not just about giving money!

Living the generous life is about being generous with our time, with our talents, and with our treasures. Some of you might have a lot of money to give. Then give it! Others of you might have a specific talent or resource that no one else in your community has. Then give it! Be generous with what you have been blessed with, not with what you think you should be.

A good start with being generous is tithing to Kingdom work (usually a church, as long as they are advancing the Kingdom of God). This means setting aside the first part of what we receive. While this usually applies to money, it can be applied across our lives. Living a life of generosity is about giving back to the Lord the first fruits, whether money or other possessions.

Saving up so that we can be generous in the future when last-minute needs arise is also a great start. Think and pray about starting a “Blessing Fund” so that you have something in storage you can bless others with on their rainy days.

Hospitality

I used to work at a restaurant chain called Aladdin’s, which specialized in Lebanese fare. Throughout my training, the importance of hospitality was stressed more than anything. In Mediterranean culture, if you were to sit down at my dinner table and see a glass with fingerprints all over it, it would be a serious offense. In America, we tend to think of hospitality as something that only pertains to restaurant chains or the hotel industry. But to the Christian way of life, hospitality is vitally important.

What does hospitality look like practically for us today? This might be one of the most fun rhythms because it essentially just means eating and drinking with others. For us today, being hospitable means welcoming people into our homes and creating a space where they are loved, feel heard, and in which the Spirit of God can move. It also means being a good neighbor, not just to those we know and hang out with regularly, but (most literally) to our neighbors. It’s getting to know them, investing in their lives, and welcoming them into ours.

As a side note to end, none of these practices in humility are because we want to “up our soul count.” We aren’t humble to get brownie points or to prove ourselves. Our first priority is to love others with the same loved Christ first loved us with. It must all start from a place of love as we abide in relationship with the Lord and let Him produce the fruit in and through us.

That is what living a life of humility and service in the Kingdom ultimately looks like: love.

In this article series, I share excerpts and stories from my book, Thriving by Following. I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did enjoy it and want to stay up to date, you can reach me here via email, or connect with me on Instagram. You can also find my book on Amazon as both an e-book and paperback.

Chapter Excerpt References:

[1] Centre for Public Christianity, “The Humility Revolution,” July 1, 2018.

[2] NewSongBismarck, “7/29/12 — WCA Summit Sunday — John Dickson — Humilitas.”

Writer and musician based in Cleveland, Ohio.

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