What if your teenager asked you one day, “What can I do to help?”

Probably two things would happen.

First, you’d be stunned and shocked at the collapse of everything you know to be true in this world: Did those words actually come from my child’s mouth?  

Second, you’d probably wonder what angle your child is trying to play: What does he want from me?

OK, perhaps that scenario seems impossible … so let’s bring this into the realm of marriage.  What if your spouse asked you, “What can I do to help?”

What if you both adopted this type of servant attitude on a regular basis?  What impact would that have on your marriage?

Before I go too far, I need to credit Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, for the thoughts in this column.  Recently my wife, Merry, and I attended a Catalyst One Day conference on leadership, and in one of Stanley’s messages he challenged us to begin asking this same question to the people who report to us: “What can I do to help?”  When a leader seeks to serve, it can revolutionize the culture of a church, an organization, a company.

Then, as we were driving home, we listened to a recent sermon where Stanley applied this same theme to family relationships.  He started by discussing Ephesians 5:21, which states that one of the fruits of being filled with the Spirit is “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

This attitude of submitting to one another “should be the hallmark, the driving force behind Christian families,” Stanley says.  Each person in the family is committed to “leverage my assets, my time, and my power for your benefit.”

We do this “out of reverence for Christ.”  This is the Christ who set the example of submitting His desires and will in order to serve us and to fulfill God’s will.  This is the  Christ who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

Think about that for a moment.  Jesus, the Son of God, did not come to earth so that people could serve Him.  Instead, he came to serve others.

An overall attitude of selflessness

This attitude of submission detailed in Ephesians 5:21 sets a clear context for the familiar verses that follow:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. (Ephesians 5:22-25)

This is undoubtedly one of the most difficult and misunderstood passages of the Bible.  But notice how the theme of “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” runs through it.  Wives submit to their husbands as the church does to Christ.  And husbands, given the responsibility to lead in a marriage, are to love their wives “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

We each have different roles in marriage, but as we work out these roles the overall attitude is one of selflessness—of regarding others as more important than ourselves, just as Christ did for us (Philippians 2:1-11).

That’s why I like this question, “What can I do to help?” It’s a very practical way to reach out and meet the needs of your spouse.

To some of you, the thought of asking that question may seem a bit scary.  You don’t know how your spouse will answer.  Or you realize that helping your spouse may mean sacrifice on your part.  Setting aside your agenda so that you can meet your spouse’s needs.

I learned this lesson a few years ago when Merry and our daughter, Bethany, returned home from shopping.  They had purchased some new drapes for our dining room, but I was doing something else (probably something really important, like watching a football game on television), and I figured I would hang the drapes some other time when I felt like it.  Perhaps the next weekend.

Then Bethany approached me and said, “You know, Mom is really excited about these drapes.  Don’t you think you could go ahead and put them up tonight?  It would mean a lot to her.”  Somehow her words pierced my fog of selfishness and moved me to action.  I realized I needed to help and bless my wife.

We face choices like these on a daily basis.  Am I going to plan my time around my needs, or around the needs of others?  Am I going to serve others or try to force them to serve me?

Imagine what would happen in your marriage if you asked, regularly, “What can I do to help?”

And then imagine the example it would set for your children.  It might even rub off on your teenagers.

Copyright © 2012 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.