One of the core principles of HOPE Missions is to serve our neighbors with unbounded love. We are the hands and feet of Jesus! It’s not a new idea by any means. The way we implement the command of Jesus to love one another centers on the word, Serve.

I learned the hard way that “help” is a four-letter word. When we started HOPE Missions, we stepped into a huge gap at the beginning of a completely unknown pandemic. We didn’t know how long, how far, or how many would be affected. We just knew we had to do something. I got into the habit of asking, “how can I help you?” While this seems innocent enough, when you think about it, the term “help” implies a superior position. I can only help you if I’m in a better position than you are. In other words, when I offer to help you, I’m saying not only do you need help, I’m saying I’m just a little bit better than you. I’ve elevated myself above you and reached down to give you my superior hand.

I don’t need your help!

HOPE Missions’ Guest

I’ll never forget those words. He shouted at the top of his voice in response to my plea, “I’m just trying to help you!” Yep, that was me in the summer of 2020, standing in the street outside Clean Start as I “helped” fix an issue with an irate guest. Fortunately, God is patient with me and continues to teach me every day. What I learned from that interaction is the main theme of this post. It caused me to sit and ponder my assertion that we were here to help to least the lost and the lonely. As I studied Jesus’ interactions with people, his approach to “helping” us was very different. Instead,

…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Matthew 20:28

Disclaimer: I’m no biblical scholar, so forgive the detour into the Greek definition here. My goal is to become more like Jesus, so I’m diving deep into a single word. The key word, διακονέω (diakoneō), means to wait, attend upon, and serve, Mt. 8:15Mk. 1:31Lk. 4:39; to be an attendant or assistant, Acts 19:22; to minister to, relieve, assist, or supply with the necessaries of life, provide the means of living, Mt. 4:1127:55Mk. 1:1315:41Lk. 8:3; to fill the office of διάκονος, deacon, perform the duties of deacon, 1 Tim. 3:10131 Pet. 4:11; to convey in charge, administer, 2 Cor. 3:38:19, 201 Pet. 1:124:10; pass. to receive service, Mt. 20:28Mk. 10:45*

Back to my main point and the lesson, I pray we can all learn from my blunder. In the context of providing services to our community, help is a four-letter word. Simply substitute the word “serve” any time you’re about to say “help.” Watch what happens. Here are a few examples:

  • How can I help you? becomes: how can I best serve you?
  • We’re just here to help people becomes: we’re just here to serve people.
  • Can I help you with that? Becomes: let me get that for you.

Does this mean we don’t help people?

Ah, here’s the rub. I’m not suggesting that we don’t provide assistance that helps people. That’s not it at all. The services we provide most definitely help people, but that is the main point. It’s the services that provide help. Our privilege is to serve my brothers and sisters by pointing them to those steps that can help them move forward. We serve best when we invest time in relationships and learn the difference between wants and needs. That will be the subject of a separate post!

How do we serve well?

Beyond switching the word help for serve, we need to reflect on the example of Jesus. Look at the example we read about in John 13:

“Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

John 13:12-17

I love it when Jesus asks questions. Flip through the red letters in your Bible and see how many times he asks questions. In this case, the penetrating question is something we should all take time to chew on, “Do you understand…”? I truly wonder if I understand. What I do get from his demonstration is our Lord and Teacher did not avoid doing the worst task for any gathering: washing filthy, dirty feet. He even washed the feet of Judas, then moments later (10 verses later) told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” Well, now, do you understand what he has done for you?

Here’s what I understand, Jesus, the Son of God, came to serve. He showed us that over and over again. In my journey, I have found it easier and easier to serve when I consider what Jesus did for us well before subjecting himself to the torture of the cross. Day after day, he served his community. He walked around with his disciples and scores of people that followed. He did life with us and told us to go and do the same. It was his choice.

Give it a try. Every time you’re about to say the word help, rephrase the sentence to center on the word “serve.” I think you’ll see better results on both sides of the conversation. This, my friends, is how we love our neighbors!

*Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament edited by William D. Mounce. Copyright ©2011 by William D. Mounce. All rights reserved. Free Greek dictionary. See also,

One thought on “Help is a Four-Letter Word

  1. What a beautiful thing to say. In my position, I help people on a daily basis. Now I will use the word serve in its place. It does make an astonishing difference. Thank you for your insight. I love you with all my heart.

    Susan Cormier

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