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Questions and Answers: Why Should I Serve Anyone Else?

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Sally: Can you come with me to the mall this afternoon, Polly? I feel like I want to have a good time with somebody.

Polly: Why, is something the matter, Sally?

Sally: Well, it’s just not much fun at home right now. My parents are so busy all the time. You know they’re redecorating our whole house, since it’s so old; and they’re worried about having enough money for the project and always seem to have so much to do. They never have any time to do anything I want.

Polly: Well, maybe you should spend some time helping them to do what they want — or rather, what they need — instead, and then they’ll have more time to spend with you doing the things you want!

Sally: But why should I have to help solve all of their problems? It’s not my fault; I don’t see why I should have to suffer for it. Why can’t I just do everything I want?

Polly: But you can’t expect everybody to just drop everything important that they need to do in order to do the things you just want to do. There’s more to life than just doing what you want.

Sally: Well, I don’t see why there should be. If everybody just did what they wanted, everybody would be happy. Why do people have to make other people do things they don’t want to do — like in school or at work or governmental requirements?

Polly: Because in life there are two kinds of things to be done: things you have to do, and things you want to do. And then, of course, there are the things you don’t have to do and don’t want to do either, but it would be quite silly to bother about them.

Sally: But why are there things that we have to do that are not what we want to do?

Polly: Because none of us is the only person in the world. There are other people, too, and our actions always have an effect on others, especially those closest to us. And if doing what we want is going to hurt someone else or keep them from doing something they would like to do, well then, we should do what we have to do in that case instead of what we want to do.

Sally: Well, that sounds very nice, trying to make other people happy and putting them before yourself and all that. But what about me being happy? Don’t I have as much right to be happy as all the rest of them?

Polly: Yes, and you will be happy, if you think about helping others instead of helping yourself.

Sally: What? That doesn’t make any sense. How can helping others make me happy?

Polly: “It is more blessed to give than to receive”(Acts 20:35). Seriously, it is even more fun to do something nice for somebody else than to have somebody else do something really nice for you. You have to try it to realize how good it feels. But believe me, even when serving others means doing something you don’t really like, you get something out of it that you never get out of just having fun for yourself. I’ve experienced it myself, probably not as often as I should … but I know it works, when you go out of your way to serve others instead of yourself.

Sally: Well, I believe you, Polly, but you’re an awfully nice, serving kind of person naturally … don’t you think that maybe that’s why you enjoy it?

Polly: Um, yes and no.

Sally: What do you mean?

Polly: Well, the fact is, no one is a “serving” kind of person naturally, Sally. “We have turned every one to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6) — in other words, fallen human beings are naturally selfish and think of themselves and their own concerns. It takes a complete change of heart — the kind of heart change that only Jesus can provide — to make a serving person out of a selfish person. “For, without Grace, our wishes and our necessities are in conflict.”1 We don’t want to do the things we need to do to help others; we don’t even realize that, in the long run, we need to do those things that others need, to serve, to “deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24) for our own sakes just as much as the sake of those that need help. Think of what happens if you “give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe and secure in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”2 And I see this happening every day in the Western world: so many people who have every material good, and never have to do anything they don’t want to do, but are hopelessly unhappy, trapped in a life without meaning or relationships. We can’t expect to have close friends and people to love us if we don’t put them before ourselves. That isn’t a relationship of love at all.

Sally: So what you’re saying is that service is the same thing as love? True love, the kind that is even willing to lay down its life?

Polly: Yes, that’s what I’m saying, and that’s what the Bible says. And I’m also saying that we don’t have any “easy way out.” Either we have to be willing to serve and sacrifice, in order to have the good blessings and relationships and future God intends for us; or we will be relegated to selfish loneliness that never amounts to anything no matter how much we try to do what we want.

Sally: You’ve given me something to think about, Polly. Maybe it’s a good thing my parents don’t always let me do everything I want!

Ask your children: What do you think about Polly’s answers to Sally’s questions? Do you have any other questions of your own that this dialogue has brought up for you? Challenge them to think up more responses they could give, if someone asked them a question like Sally’s.

1 C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves (New York: A Harvest Book: Harcourt, Inc., 1960), p. 130.

2 Ibid. 121.


C.S. Lewis Institute

C.S. Lewis Institute, In the legacy of C. S. Lewis, we develop wholehearted disciples of Jesus Christ who will articulate, defend, share, and live their faith in personal and public life.


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