But greatest among you shall be your servant.
—Matthew 23:11

A few years ago, I discovered the tremendous value of serving my wife, Erin. While we were shopping, I asked Erin if there was anything that I could do for her. "Yes," she begged, "Can I please shop alone, without Taylor (our eighteen month old daughter) hanging on me?"

After several last minute instructions, Taylor and I set off in search of a massive bookstore I'd seen earlier. Once inside, Taylor and I discovered the biggest children's section we'd ever seen. There were mountains of books, and an enormous stage where the kids could play. It was the "Disneyland" of children's bookstores. Instantly, Taylor situated herself in the middle of the stage and began reading a book.

As Taylor and I interacted, I felt as if we were being watched. That's when I discovered I was the only father present. Surveying the room, I noticed several mothers smiling at me. A few moms even commented about what a precious daughter I had. "This servant thing," I thought to myself, "I'm on to something!"

Unfortunately, my celebrity status was short-lived. Because instantly, those mothers who'd been smiling now seemed disgusted with me. Trying to determine why the quick change, I noticed that Taylor was now playing with finger paint. "Brown finger paint?" I wondered. "Where did she get that?" Then it dawned on me. That wasn't paint!

Earlier that day, Taylor had developed a rash on her bottom. Consequently, the combination of her rash and a messy diaper, resulted in very itchy toddler. As a result of her scratching, Taylor "painted" some of the stage and several books with the contents of her diaper. To make matters worse, as we were trying to leave, I ended up having to purchase several more book than I had intended too buy.

The most interesting part of the experience, however, was when I told Erin about our daughter's artistic expression. Instead of lecturing me about messy diapers or leaving Taylor unattended, Erin simply thanked me for letting her shop alone. She even apologized for the humiliation I must have felt. I was right—this servant thing—I was definitely on to something!

What Does It Mean to Be a Servant?

The positive reaction I received from Erin, illustrates what can happen when you serve your mate: When you do something for your mate it motivates her to return the kindness. Erin's positive response was her way of serving me in return. When you serve your mate, it's essentially another way to communicate honor. Honor is defined as making the decision to attach "high value" to someone—to treat them as a priceless treasure in our lives. According to Dr. Gary Smalley, in his book, Love Is A Decision, "Honor [or service] is the single most important principle we know of for building healthy relationships. It's important for a husband and wife to begin applying it toward each other. The results of allowing 'honor' to reign can be dramatic and life-changing." (p. 20).

As we serve our spouses, we make them feel as if they're the most important thing to us. This is the essence of the second greatest commandment, "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:38).

Two Ways to Become a Servant In Your Marriage

1. Make A Commitment. The first way to become a servant is to make a commitment to serve your spouse. In I Peter 3:7 it says, "You husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect …" A great way to show consideration is to serve someone. Serving our mate needs to be a decision that we make every day. I encourage you to wake up each morning and think of several ways to honor your mate by serving him unconditionally. Imagine how different marriages could be if couples tried to out serve one another each day.

2. Personalize Your Service. Since each person interprets "service" differently, I encourage you to discover your mate's unique definition. Asking questions like, "How could I make you feel like a priceless treasure today?" or "How can I help out around the house?" should help you decide how to best serve your spouse.

If your desire is to have a significant impact upon your marital relationship, I encourage you to make service a daily occurrence. As this happens, you can become the type of person Christ spoke so highly of, "But greatest among you shall be your servant!"

© Copyright 2002 Smalley Relationship Center