Servant or Martyr?

Jesus calls us to serve not martyrdom, in the Church and among our friends and family.

We all know what a martyr is. We have all heard the stories of noble courage where heroic women and men pay the ultimate price for their faith in Jesus Christ.  But there is another kind of martyr that is not courageous, noble or heroic.  There are Christians who suffer much and are always willing to share with anyone who will listen.  This kind of martyr wants everyone to know the painful sacrifices they are making in this life.

I know of a woman who feels like she is a slave to her family and daily plays the role of the martyr.  Many in her close circle are weary of hearing how much she does for everyone and how little everyone appreciates her.  She keeps a record of the works she does for others verses what others do for her.  Her husband, children and closest friends are getting tired of her ongoing sob song.  While she plays the sad role of a “martyr,” her most meaningful relationships are tragically unraveling.

The “martyr trap” is an easy one to fall into. We start out serving our family, friends, church and loving every minute of it, but after a while our hearts begin to change. We are working hard, generously giving of ourselves, but we are expecting something in return. One morning we wake up and no longer have a Servant’s Heart. We become discouraged because our expectations are not being met.  We feel unappreciated, taken advantage of, our attitude sours and before you know it we are caught in the “martyr trap.”

One morning I woke up eager to open my bible and enjoy a fresh cup of coffee. The sun had not yet risen but I was wide awake and eager for some extra time in the Word and prayer. I had barely gotten started and the Lord encouraged me to go fill up Dallas’ car with gas before she made the 50 mile trek to work.  Dallas dreads having to fill up her car when she is rushing to the office especially on hot, muggy, summer mornings. She was still sleeping so I had plenty of time to drive into town, fill up and be home before she got out of bed.

The problem was, I didn’t want to drive into town at 5 AM.  I wanted to read my Bible and pray while savoring my coffee. I thought, ”Why do I always have to do stuff for her? I make her coffee, breakfast and pack up her car every morning. Why doesn’t she get up early and do some things for me? After all, I need to study the Bible and pray. What’s more important?!”

Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking spiritual activity supersedes obedience and somehow makes us more Holy.  It doesn’t.  Everyone wants to be “free” and without question Jesus came to set us free, but he never intended for us to use our freedom to be selfish or play the role of a martyr.  God calls us to serve others.

I love Dallas very much. Sometimes that love is best expressed through service. Words are important, but love is ultimately expressed through action. How can I truly say “I love Dallas” if I never or rarely do anything for her without reciprocating expectations? Most of us want to be blessed in return by the people we bless, but it doesn’t always work that way.

I don’t recall getting any type of reward that morning when she learned of my early morning drive into town.  She did thank me, but there were no romantic fireworks or posts on social media proclaiming “I have the best husband in the world” and why.  But in my soul I had a joy and a peace because I acted in obedience to the Spirit’s prompting.

I wonder how many blessings we never receive because we simply fail to serve others when the Spirit and the Word speaks, “serve others as I have served you.”

If your marriage or family or friendships, or church experience is not what you would like them to be, you could literally turn them all around by developing a Servant’s Heart and serving them in simple, practical ways. Stop waiting for others to serve you. Make the first move. Swallow your pride. Save your marriage. Save your children from the pain of a broken family. Stop talking about all of the sacrifices you make. Pray daily for God to give you a Servant’s Heart.  Make God and others your life focus, not you.

At home, among your friends and in your church, be a Servant, not a martyr.

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh, rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13

I am praying for you. Please pray for me.


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