For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh; but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13
Serve – “How may I serve you?” When someone in a retail store asks that question, what do you think? You probably anticipate a sales pitch. You might reply, “I’m just looking,” in order to forestall further interrogation. Does all this commercialization taint your attitude toward Paul’s command for service? It might, but it shouldn’t if we see this verb in Greek. Why? Because the verb is not about an employee offering assistance in order to make a sale. This verb (douleuo) is about the service of a slave! Paul is not saying that we are to serve each other as if we were employed. He is saying that we are to serve each other as if we were slaves! That’s a big difference.
In the NASB translation, you don’t see the emphasis of being a slave. The verb is translated as if it were diakoneo, another verb for serving. But diakoneo puts attention on the work or the job, not on the relationship. If I serve as a diakonia, I serve voluntarily in order to accomplish a task. Once the work is done, my service has ended. A great many Christians take this approach toward community interaction. There are jobs to do in the church. We need volunteers. We won’t require more than just getting the work done.
This is not douleuo. The service of a slave is not voluntary. I don’t decide if I am going to do what the Master asks. I do it! Why? Because He owns me. It is the relationship of ownership that governs the assignments, not the tasks to be accomplished. So, Paul exhorts us to act as slaves of each other because love is the active expression of benevolence toward another at cost to myself. My Master has redeemed me in order that I may serve you. This is the basis of “love your neighbor.” I am not just doing a job. My relationship to you doesn’t end when the clock says it’s quitting time. You and I are bound together no matter what the circumstances because He owns us. So, let’s try this verse again. “but through love serve one another as slaves.” That captures it.
Now we get to ask, “How may I serve you as if you owned me?” I put aside my agenda, replacing it with yours. I do what is best for you, under God’s guidance, in order that you might serve Him with glorious satisfaction. My only hope is that I may bring God closer to you and let you experience His delight in you. I am here to make your life wonderfully godly.
Now, “How may I serve you?”
Topical Index: serve, douleuo, diakoneo, slave, employee, Galatians 5:13