Updated: Jun 6, 2020
“Not everybody can be famous but everybody can be great, because greatness is determined by service.” Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. is remembered for many words, both spoken and written. But surely one of his finest words were these: “Not everybody can be famous but everybody can be great, because greatness is determined by service.”
God gave us life so that we can return it in some way. All the great religions of the world agree at this point and emphasis. We are created and called into service in behalf of the needs of others. In a world of pain and loneliness and violence and hunger and widespread despair, we are called to serve.
The biblical mandate that all believers are called to serve echoes across nearly every chapter of our sacred text. Can the mandate to serve be more clear than this from the book of James (2:15-16):
“If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace: keep warm and eat your fill, and yet you do not supply them their bodily needs, what is the good of that’?”
Or what can be more powerful that the words of Jesus where he describes the Judgement of the Nations in Matthew’s gospel (25:35-36): “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing”?
Service is something we do individually but it is also something we do together. Together we can accomplish so much more than any one life alone—though both are important. So we come together to feed. We come together to clothe. We come together to make a place of welcome for the cold and the despairing among us. We can all be great because we each can serve.
Teach us to love, with strength of heart and mind,
each and all, humankind;
break down old walls of prejudice and hate,
leave us not to our fate.
As you have loved and given your life
to end hostility and strife,
O share your grace from heaven above,
teach us, Lord, how to love.