Servant leaders like Joshua

Did you get your check yet? You know, the check we have been told we deserve from the government – the free bailout to tide you over in these difficult times. The “Me” check.

We sound like children who have spent their allowance and are now coming to dad for more. Speaking of our children, what does this new “give me my check” mentality teach them?

We have digressed a long way from President Kennedy’s famous call to citizenship, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

But that was a time when people served a greater cause than self. Now, we’ve turned the action of service around. “Serve” isn’t even an honorable thought anymore. The goal of most Americans is to become celebrities so they can be served by others.

Never before has it been more important to define the focal point of your service. Never has it been more urgent to teach our children the proper orientation of serving. What I serve influences every decision, every purchase, every word I speak. If I serve myself, I purchase what I want and say whatever makes my momentary frustrations feel better. I serve whatever appetites my culture can conjure in my mind. That’s a scary thought!

As if that’s not bad enough, as a parent I can easily curse my children as they observe my misdirected lifestyle.

A family is little more than a mini-society. A family, like a society, cannot long endure a household of self-centered individuals. Sooner or later each member will serve its own appetites to the point where it rips the family unit apart. Perhaps in this context, Kennedy could have said, “Ask not what your family can do for you, but rather what you can do for your family.”

A story of service

Joshua set a good example of this kind of servant leadership. He knew the new land the Israelites were about to inhabit was full of plenty of opportunity, as well as distractions.

Before they entered the land, Joshua instructed the Israelites to do two things: Choose who or what you will serve, and teach your children to do likewise.

Then, Joshua gave them the focal point of his personal service, as well as his family’s.

“As for me and my family, we will serve the LORD,” he said in Joshua 24:15.

In other words, “I will serve the Lord, as will my family, and that’s how we will overcome these distractions.”

Bucking this self-absorbed cultural thinking takes intentional planning. Our children must be taught to think about the needs of others. To sustain this proper perspective, our children must be given the opportunity to help others. But they’ll really be serving God by helping others.

Teach them that we can’t see God, so it seems difficult to do things for Him. So, God in His awesome wisdom helps us serve Him by putting needy people in our path so we can use the opportunity to serve Him.

The beauty of serving God by serving others is that we don’t need to hear the people we help say, “Thank you!”

We are not motivated by the gratitude of people.

Joshua was a great dad because he helped his children get a focus on service.

Serve God, and it will help you love people. Serving people purely for their sake will wear you out, because they won’t be appreciative.

Our Lord Himself gave us an illustration of this exact principle, and it’s a great one for dads to read to their children this summer.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus taught about a man who found another man on the side of the road broken and unconscious (Luke 10:25-37). Jesus praised the Samaritan for expressing love for God by showing mercy to an unconscious neighbor.

This summer, help your family take their focus off of themselves. Find projects of service. But start by defining the focal point. Use the story of the Good Samaritan to teach your children about serving God by helping others.

Be a family that’s not waiting for a check. Become a family that checks into the needs of others.

Dr. Robert Barnes is the president of Sheridan House Family Ministries. He and his wife, Rosemary, are authors and speakers on marriage and family issues.

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