It does not take long for a new mother to notice her work is never done. There are so many needs. There are diapers to change, feeding and burping the baby, giving baths, cooking, cleaning, washing laundry, ironing, fixing things that break, running errands, potty training, wiping noses…whatever the need is, and then some, as more children are added to the family. Perhaps a young mother’s most shocking realization is that the bulk of her work is routine and unglamorous.
How do you, dear Christian mother, like doing those unpaid, lowly, menial tasks to meet the needs of others? Though it may sound like an oxymoron, are you content with your freedom to serve? I have been blessed to know and learn from many Christian mothers who serve with kindness and selfless love. I trust you have, as well. Yet, these humble women are the first to admit that they have a sinful nature they fight against constantly. Motherhood requires a great deal of God’s grace to be selfless.
There are plenty of temptations around us, and we are prone by nature to be selfish—young or old, male or female. It is not surprising to see the temptations coming from the world, but how grievous it is when they come from confessing Christians. A religion of selfishness is being promoted through social media, best-selling books, and megachurches. They tempt us and tantalize us with promises of earthly pleasures. Serving the Lord by serving others? That is not in their message.
This is your life. You are meant to be the hero of your own story…. You should be the very first of your priorities. (Rachel Hollis, Christian women’s convention speaker, from her book, Girl Wash Your Face, 2018.)
Anyone who tells you to deny yourself is from Satan. (Paula White, Christian women’s convention speaker, Orlando, FL, 2007.)
If you stay in your faith, you are going to get paid. I’m living now in my reward. (Joyce Meyer, referring to her affluent lifestyle. Christian convention, Detroit, MI, 2003.)
When you come to church, when you worship him, you’re not doing it for God really! You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy— Amen? (Victoria Osteen, wife and co-pastor with megachurch pastor Joel Osteen, Houston, Texas. 2014.)
God has already done everything He’s going to do. The ball is now in your court. If you want success, if you want wisdom, if you want to be prosperous and healthy, you’re going to have to do more than meditate and believe; you must boldly declare words of faith and victory over yourself and your family. (Houston megachurch pastor Joel Osteen, from his book, Your Best Life Now, 2004.)
You are destined to reign in life. You are called by the Lord to be a success, to enjoy wealth, to enjoy health, and to enjoy a life of victory. (Singapore megachurch pastor Joseph Prince, from his book, Destined to Reign, 2007.)
Self is supreme in this movement, often nicknamed the “prosperity gospel,” sometimes the “self-help and wellness industry.” With the power of positive thinking and faith in your own generated faith, you can make things happen in your life. In turn, God will give you health, wealth, success, and abundant luxuries.
How does their self-obsessed message apply to caring for and cleaning up after a sick child all night? When someone becomes infected by this movement, something starts to happen inside. Selfishness gets the upper hand while love grows cold. Narcissism is being ushered into the church world. It is no wonder that families are falling apart. Truly, we live in the last days. “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, unthankful…lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God” (II Tim. 3:2, 4). How we need God’s grace to fight against this temptation, this idolatry, and warn our friends and family of the same.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is the perfect opposite of selfishness. He “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant…and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:7, 8). He is the compassionate One, touched with the “feeling of our infirmities” (Heb. 4:15). Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart…” (Matt. 11:29). He performed lowly, menial tasks to meet the needs of others. He fed multitudes. He washed others’ dirty feet. If He, the King of kings, served others, is it not a privilege for us to do the same?
Jesus set us free to serve. Early in His ministry recorded in Luke 4, Jesus preached a sermon based on Isaiah 61. In that sermon, He revealed that He had fulfilled the Jubilee. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord…” (Luke 4:18, 19).
What gracious words to those who know they are freed from the bondage of sin! The Jubilee, referred to in Leviticus 25:8-16, 23-55, and 27:16-25, was a picture of that. It was to be observed every fiftieth year in the promised land. Debts were forgiven, land was returned and given a rest from farming. Indentured servants were released to go back to their land of inheritance and to their families. The Jubilee was an undeserved, precious gift, a joyous year of liberty.
This truth was at the heart of Jesus’ ministry. He redeemed His people. He paid our debt. “Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses” (Matt. 8:17). “With his stripes we are healed” (Is. 53:5). He healed our sin-sick, selfish souls so that we might serve Him by serving one another. Christ has fulfilled the Jubilee and we have been called to liberty. What an amazing and beautiful truth still today!
Shortly after that sermon Jesus entered the home of Peter. Peter’s mother-in-law was sick with a very high fever. We do not know her name but we know she was a mother and perhaps a grandmother in a believing home. Her life was interrupted by sickness. A faithful mother, such as this woman, would be used to meeting the needs of her family and guests even while not feeling very well. “Moms aren’t allowed to get sick!” Perhaps you have heard or said that yourself. There are too many times to count when a faithful mother puts aside how she feels to meet the needs of her family.
On this day, however, the hostess of the household lay in bed too ill to do anything else. Surely, the family was very concerned for their loved one. They brought Jesus to her. “And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her: and immediately she arose and ministered unto them” (Luke 4:39).
You can only imagine everyone’s utter amazement, thankfulness, and joy. Jesus was merciful and full of compassion. However, He did not come primarily to heal physically. His miracles confirmed the truth He preached. The One who fulfilled the Jubilee set her free from fever’s grip instantly and completely. She did not experience a slow, gradual gaining of strength. She was brought to full strength and vitality; a picture of Christ’s perfect work in our salvation.
Then what did she do? She got up and served! Perhaps some might feel a bit disappointed with her response. Here, Jesus had performed a great miracle and this woman is now perfectly healed…to make dinner? That is not how the prosperity gospel people would like this story to end. Where is her life of luxury?
Perhaps you have known some mothers who stop making meals and doing other such labors altogether. As far as they are concerned, they have put in their time. (Like an ex-convict in prison?) Their families scrounge in the cupboard and fridge dining solo, on a daily basis. “Where is Mom?” “She is at a three-day women’s conference learning how to stop denying herself.” “Well, Jed put an unopened can of soup in the microwave and it blew up. Plus, I need some shirts washed and I don’t know how to do it. What do we take to school for lunches tomorrow? I think it’s our turn to bring two dozen cupcakes.”
If Peter’s mother-in-law could have known the future, how so many mothers are turning sour on serving, she would have been perplexed. She would not have dreamed of doing anything else, for she was set free to serve her Lord and imitate Him. He ministered to her, so she served Him by serving others. That is what we are all called to do, too. “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13). What a crucial verse to take to heart when considering the many needs of our family, our church family, and beyond.
Later, Jesus visits the home of some other friends, Mary and Martha, according to Luke 10. It is another story that teaches us about serving. Sometimes while serving we can worry, get distracted, and angry. Instead of serving in love, we bite and devour. This gets in the way of listening to Jesus. No matter what we are in the midst of doing, taking heed to His Word is the one thing needful.
Peter’s mother-in-law got up to serve without delay. There were hungry, weary people in her home and she wanted nothing more than to minister unto them. Serving others takes effort. Mealtime, for example, takes effort. Yet, it is a precious time for our families, and for our bodies and souls to be nourished. It is a time to relax together, pray and give thanks, talk about the day, read and discuss God’s Word, and sing His praises. Certainly there will be times the family cannot be together, but placing it as a high priority is a great blessing.
Let us teach our children to serve others in an age of selfishness. Mothers are not the only ones who should be serving. Everyone has the responsibility to help around the house. Even our sons can learn that changing a diaper or washing dishes is not going to threaten their manliness. A two-year-old can help pick up toys. When children are old enough they can learn how to use the washing machine, help cook meals, clean the house, etc. Freedom does not give license to be rude, rarely saying “please” and “thank you” or rejecting meals to forage in the fridge. We certainly do not want our children growing up entitled. May they learn to help others in the home and outside the home impressed with the truth of this verse: “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt 25:40).
So we pray to the Lord together to teach us how to serve selflessly with love. It does not require any special talents, but a great deal of God’s grace. Serving is not drudgery when we consider imitating Christ, as Peter’s mother-in-law did. For our Lord fulfilled the Jubilee; He has set us free to serve Him by serving one another.