the weblog of Alan Knox

Let me tell you how you want to be served

Posted by on Apr 26, 2011 in service | 12 comments

Let me tell you how you want to be served

When Margaret and I first got married, just over 20 years ago (and, yes, I know how long ago it was), I was an awesome husband. It’s true. I did so many things to serve my wife. I did everything that I wanted to do for her.

Read that last sentence again: I did everything that I wanted to do for her. In other words, I tried to tell her how she wanted to be served, and I decided what I needed to do to serve her.

For some reason, she did not recognize my service as being quite as awesome as I thought it was. You see, my wife needed me to serve her (just like I needed her to serve me), but not in the ways that I was serving her. I was doing things that I wanted to do – things that I would consider service. But, I never stopped to consider what Margaret considered service.

I wish I could say that I’ve learned perfectly how to serve Margaret in the last 20 years. I haven’t. I think I’m better at serving her than I was when we first got married, but I still have a long way to go.

What changed? I started paying more attention to Margaret. What did she appreciate? What made her feel appreciated? What needed to be done that she couldn’t do or didn’t like to do?

I noticed something interesting. Previously, I had served Margaret primarily by doing things that I wanted to do or liked doing. Often, however, I learned that I needed to serve Margaret by doing something that I did not want to do.

Let me give you a silly (and fictional) example. Suppose I got up every morning and fixed coffee for Margaret. That would be great, right? No, not all. Why? Because Margaret doesn’t like coffee even though I love coffee.

I found that Margaret appreciated service such as washing dishes, cleaning toilets and tubs, washing and folding clothes, etc. I didn’t like to do these things. But, I learned to do them because I wanted to serve my wife.

This brings me to the church. I’ve found that Christians also often serve people only in way that they enjoy serving. Teachers like to teach. Encouragers like to encourage. Givers like to give. Administrators like to administrate. But, are we willing to step outside of the things that we like to do and even are gifted to do in order to serve others?

You see, if we are gifted at teaching, we are not called to only teach. If we are gifted at contributing, we are not called only to give. Instead, as an expression of love – both God’s love for others and our love for others – we should seek to serve people in a way that demonstrates that love – not simply to serve people in a way that we WANT to serve people.

It’s easy to toss a service someone’s way without thinking about the person at all. This is especially true of “important” forms of service (important as defined by the modern church) like teaching or administrating.

Instead of simply serving others in the way that we want to serve (or are gifted to serve), we must take the time to get to know people and to learn both what they want (in terms of service) and what they need (in terms of service). This is difficult. It takes time and effort and intentionality.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 4-26-2011

    Wait a second. Cleaning toilets? Don’t they clean themselves every time you flush them?

  2. 4-26-2011

    In honor of just celebrating 21 years of marriage, Stacy and I are going through three books one of them is The Five Love Languages and I can not recommend it enough. It is based on your basic premise here that we need to discover what our spouses love language is and learn to love and serve them in a way that best meets their needs = better communication and relationship. Thanks for helping me see this in a way as it relates to teh Church and to anyone who we are serving.

  3. 4-26-2011


    Yeah. Who knew?


    I’ve never read Five Love Languages, but I’ve heard a little about it. From what I understand of the book, I would go a little more precise than the book. For example, someone may feel appreciated by service, but not all types of service. If that makes sense?


  4. 4-26-2011

    Good word Alan. Thanks!

  5. 4-26-2011

    Alan, Hutch,

    I agree that The 5 Love Languages is good, but pretty vague. You have to dialogue a lot with your spouse to understand how to walk it out day to day.

    A more specific book that I have skimmed is His Needs, Her Needs. It goes a lot more in depth in the specifics.

  6. 4-26-2011




    I’ve never heard of His Needs, Her Needs. You said, “You have to dialogue alot with your spouse to understand how to walk it out day to day.” I agree, and I would say that’s true of the church as well.


  7. 4-26-2011

    Reminds me of my own situation, I am a teacher, but I don’t feel like teaching is my calling, yet I try my best to teach those who want to be taught, out of service to them. Your article makes me feel a lot better about this 🙂

  8. 4-26-2011

    Alan & Mark,

    RE: You have to dialogue a lot with your spouse to understand how to walk it out day to day.

    My research and real life experience regarding the subject indicates that women are really into the “extensive dialogue thing” while guys (me included) wish to find a quick specific answer. Don’t resist the process. 🙂

  9. 4-26-2011


    The next part of this process would be to help people teach themselves and others. What do you think?


    They talk about it; we fix it. (Why do I usually end up causing more problems when I try to fix it?)


  10. 4-26-2011

    I think we can change in the ways we serve when we have the mindset of doing it as unto the Lord. Not just serve in the areas where we are gifted or noticed, but in areas that stretch us as well. Also, the bible does teach us to do everything in love. Serving is in that everything. 🙂

  11. 4-27-2011


    You’re absolutely right. Serving is a response to Jesus Christ and our love for others.


  12. 4-27-2011

    Alan, Sound’s spot-on to me.