The importance of service to others is a present theme in the Bible. Numerous scientific studies have gone on to prove this importance. An ideology shared by many reports is that serving others leads to an improvement in the mental health and well-being of ourselves. Robert Barnett writes for the Huff Post about the body’s reaction to service: “But you might [benefit], too. Your body might flood with feel-good chemicals that have a deep evolutionary heritage” (Barnett, 2011). And that’s the connection that can be made to service. A good feeling nothing else can reward. The Bible focuses on the benefits others are rewarded with, and scientific evidence tells you the benefits you feel when you serve others.
In the biblical sense, Jesus and His disciples can be seen serving others. The disciples were chosen on the basis that they displayed Christian values. In Acts 8:26-40, the Gospel of Luke depicts an encounter between Philip (one of Jesus’ disciples) and an Ethiopian eunuch who was an important official. Philip was in Samaria, healing the unwell, and had been converting many to the Christian faith. An angel of the Lord told Philip to travel to the road that connected Jerusalem and Gaza. Whilst completing his journey, Philip felt himself compelled by the spirit towards a man he saw in a chariot. He asked the Ethiopian, “Do you understand what you are reading?”. The man wished for guidance proclaiming, “How can I unless someone explains it to me?”. As the story made sense to the eunuch after Philip’s teaching, the man insisted that he was to be baptized. So, at a nearby water, the eunuch was baptized by Philip. This Ethiopian man rejoiced at his declared faith. The desert setting of this story leads pastors to believe it was a miracle that they found water and Philip was supernaturally transported from the baptism scene. An author of ‘Bible Roads’ compares the meeting of Philip and the Ethiopian to a biblical pairing orchestrated by the Holy Spirit (Madelon, 2016).
Guidance from angels is less obvious in modern times, thus, it can be hard for us to find direction in our faith. A comparison can be made to traveling in a rural area without a map – lost. However, we need to find this direction from signs often overlooked. Sometimes God is unobvious, and we must find His spirit through the sincerity of our seeking. Philip’s story is unique in that it can be related directly to events that so often occur in our lives and applied in two contexts. To Philip, the Ethiopian was a stranger, but he still went out of his way to assist the man. When walking along a busy footpath, all we see are strangers. It’s not often they become anything more to us. If we were to devote some of our time to helping those amongst us, positive mental benefits will also be felt by us. Helping strangers can be offered indirectly as well through Christian organizations such as TEAR, “a biblically-shaped response to poverty and injustice across the world” (www.tear.org, n.d.). More so, a thought inspired by Purath (2015) is that God helps anyone. Anyone. People of all races as presented by the dark-skinned foreigner as portrayed by the eunuch. The later events detailed in the story can be correlated to when we are presented with a person who shares a different faith compared to us. Philip was so willing to show this man the words of the Lord and to go as far as to baptize him. With this same task at our hands, often we let them go, and the person will continue to live without a spiritual realization that could have been awakened by ourselves. In other relations to our faith, the biblical pairing of Philip and the eunuch can be connected to the people we meet in our lives. Sometimes it may be hard to deduct, but God may be giving us an opportunity to help one find him. In conclusion, multiple lessons can be learned from the above story and can be used to develop motives to serve others in today’s society.
The Gospel of Luke goes on to tell the story of another disciple in Acts 16;16-40. The story tells of Paul and Silas (an early member of the Christian community who went on journeys with Paul). Whilst in Philippi, Paul and Silas were falsely imprisoned. They were placed within the inner cell, their feet fastened into stocks, but the two men carried their faith with them to prison. The external dimensions of the prison setting and pain would have surely been enough to steer Paul and Silas away from God, into a self-pitying state, however, they came above this perception. “Their connection to God cannot be severed” (Pope, 2014). “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the doors flew open and everybody’s chains came loose” (Bible Gateway, n.d.). The jailer awoke to this scene and, under the untrue impression that the prisoners had all escaped, began to take his own life. Paul mercifully saved the man and the jailer fell trembling before Paul and Silas. The jailer asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved”. Paul and Silas led the man to Jesus, and at once he and his family were baptized, and the jailor expressed his gratitude that he now believed in God. Paul and Silas were thus released from prison and continued on their journeys.
As found in the story of Philip, multiple lessons can be taken away. A life to serve others, rather than focus only on ourselves. Paul and Silas dealt with hardships, but their spirituality remained unharmed. They devoted time to serving their God even in the harshest of situations. In our lives, it is often we blame God for hardships dealt to us, and our faith is challenged by these moments. To work through these situations with God makes it much less daunting. In Joel 2:25, the prophet writes: “God can restore what is broken and change it into something amazing. All you need is faith”. Another idea derived from Paul and Silas’ time spent in prison is their willingness to be kind and act justly toward the jailer, who threw them in prison. Placing yourself in their situation makes you realize how hard it must have been to save the jailer when all you can feel towards him is hatred. But their Christian core comes above this, they show, as the Bible tells us to, an image of God in their actions. The love they showed was enough to lead someone to God – the ideology we should live our lives towards. Creative Kidswork applies the morals of this story to an interesting experiment that can help one understand it. A plastic bag’s structural integrity remains as one piece after pencils have been pierced through it – Paul and Silas’ spiritual integrity to remain faithful to God after their hardships. Caleb Ravesteyn preaches in a thirty-minute video, “Has God given you an earthquake moment? Or, has God given you an instance (like Paul and Silas’) to lead someone to God, coming above your hatred to them?”.
All in all, if the Bible is read on a deeper level and not just the most significant stories such as ones revolving around Jesus, further lessons can be learned to guide us through life. Often regarded as background characters, with Jesus typically focused on, who would’ve known the philosophies one could apply to our lives when studying the work of the disciples.