Serving Rolls and Switching Roles
Karen Ehman

"Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?" James 2:15-16 (NIV)

"Mommy….look at her eat that turkey and mashed potatoes! She must be sooooo hungry!" my then four-year-old daughter Mackenzie whispered in my ear. Her eyes were riveted on a beautiful, chubby-fingered toddler. The child's coiled chestnut hair nearly cascaded into her plate as she leaned forward and eagerly consumed her holiday meal, complete with all the trimmings.

On Thanksgiving Day that year, my husband and I opted to skip the normal extended-family holiday feast and instead signed up to serve at a soup kitchen in the heart of the inner city. We took our preschool daughter along. Since then, all three of our children have had several opportunities to don an apron and serve mothers and fathers; children and grandparents; precious people who normally don't enjoy a well-rounded, home-cooked and piping-hot meal.

We often choose to serve a noontime meal at the soup kitchen while we skip breakfast ourselves that morning. As a result, our stomachs growl and our mouths water as we pass out the relishes, serve the rolls, or scoop the sweet potato casserole. After serving we discuss how, in a very small sense, we are switching places with the people we are ministering to that day. We get a tiny glimpse of their hungry plight.

Many of them live at poverty level. Some are homeless. For them, the noontime meal at the soup kitchen is the only hot nourishment they receive each day. They are accustomed to going hungry while watching well-fed others around them.

Our family has experienced financial struggle, to a much lesser degree, over the past year. My husband was laid off last Christmas Eve and spent over 9 months waiting to get called back to work. During this budget-tightening time, our children learned to go without; to see others acquire what we could not afford. To make ends meet, we ate more simply at home, and cut out restaurant trips. We bought only the clothing necessities on sale at deep discounts or at a resale shop. We learned what it was like to live at an economic level that was less than what we were used to.

And God was faithful. Many dear friends helped to lighten our load by giving us food, gift cards, and gas vouchers. They helped to smooth the rough bumps in our financial load.

So often, as in today's key verse, it is easy to talk the talk, yet utterly fail to walk the walk. What good is it to say, "I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but do nothing about another's physical needs? What is the point of declaring, "God bless so-and-so" in our prayers, yet never lifting a finger to bless "so-and-so" ourselves?

Let's vow together to put feet to our prayers; to love on people in tangible ways. Let's commit to step out of our comfort zones and help others enjoy the necessities and pleasures we often take for granted. Even during our own financially difficulties, we can volunteer our time or offer someone a needed hug.

This holiday season, let's try switching roles and serving rolls. I'm convinced if we do, we'll experience the immense privilege of being Jesus to a hurting soul.

Dear Lord, help me to not just say I care about others. Give me an opportunity to physically love and serve them, giving credit only to You. It is an honor to be Your hands and feet. I am ready. I am willing. I want to love and serve like You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

A Life that Says Welcome by Karen Ehman

Homespun Memories for the Heart by Karen Ehman

To discover more ideas for blessing others during the holidays and to be entered in a Thanksgiving giveaway, visit Karen’s blog

Application Steps:
Put your creative cap on and do a little brainstorming. What are some tangible ways you and your family could reach out to those affected by our current sluggish economy during the upcoming holiday season? List three or four ideas and purpose to enact one.

Who are some friends you could include in such a "blessing adventure?" Think of others you could invite to serve those struggling financially at this time of year. Make a few phone calls or meet for coffee to plan your strategy.

How might you introduce others to Jesus as you serve at this time of year?

Power Verses:
James 1:27, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (NIV)

Matthew 25:43-45, "'I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'" (NIV) © 2009 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

© 2009 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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I am going through the same thing right now. I lost my job over a month ago and our family went from making over $100K to less than $40K. My unemployment was initially denied and that is only $265 a week.

God had provided for us, but not in the way of our church family (which has been kind of disappointing). I have cashed in my 401K to pay off debt, my husband got a second job (working 7 days a week now), and we have cut back as well. We are not worried because we know that God is in control and that He will see us through.

It is extremely disappointing, though, that my own church family hasn't cared enough to check on us. I don't want a hand out, but an encourgagin word, a phone call, an email, something would have been nice.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are so right, we take for grated what we have, but things can so truly turn around as quick as an eye, thank you so much and reminding me that what we have we can still share with others. I need to hear this this morning, they is a message in it for me.

thank you again,

A Mothers Heart

Blogger Laura Jacoby said...

We are going through a similiar situation right now. As of tomorrow my husband will be unemployed for one year now, I work part time and go to school full time. His unemployment benefits have been extended once and we will be able to apply once again when these run out.

God has blessed us in so many other ways. We belong to a church that has taken care of us with meals and groceries, and now even a car since we were in an accident last week and our car was totalled.

My own family has not once asked if they could help which is a little disheartening. I was not even able to go to my mom's funeral because I did not have the money and none of my brothers or sisters would help me out.

So I know the heart ache. I also know that everyday God blesses us in so many ways we just have to open our eyes to see the blessings.

Yesterday's blessing from God was keeping my son in safety. My son, is a soldier that is stationed at Fort Hood, Texas.

We may not have all the money we need, but our faith in God to fulfill what we need is worth more than any amount of money.


Ms. Karen,

Your title is very creative and ties fittingly into your devotion. Using it again at the end of the devotion did something for me that I can not quite explain, but I feel as if I "got it."

Inspiring. Thank you!


Blogger Faith said...

this was a wonderful post to read. We are so fortunate, most of us, in this country. This year, for the very first time, my family (husband, me and 2 daughters) as well as my husband's extended family will be serving in a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving Day and delaying our own meal until the next day. It's just a small service but one that I think, hope and pray will impart a message to my daughters and to my husband's family (all of whom are not Believers). God bless you!!

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