I’ve done a lot of thinking about it and I don’t have a good track record of doing things selflessly. Far too often I have been far too aware of the effect my actions or words might have on others and made choices based on how those actions will affect me. Ouch!
I’m sure that I’m the only husband who has every done something nice for his wife with the hope that she will give her blessing to my desire for some new toy. I learned early on that the secret with Cathy was NOT flowers. “Why did you spend money on those?” she would ask. See’s Candy was another story! I honestly can’t remember giving her See’s Candy so that she would green light something I wanted, but I can remember lots of times that I bought her See’s Candy so I could eat (at least) half it. Generous of me, don’t you think? I even gave her the privilege of sharing her half with the kids!
I remember reading about an American church which purchased and set up a large diesel generator for a remote, third-world village, providing them with electricity. I’m quite sure that the church felt very good about their act of kindness, but never took time to discern that the nearest diesel fuel for the generator was hours distant and the village had no way to get it. Thus, a year later the generator was rusting away unused. One would have to question if the purpose of the gift was truly to help the poor or to make the rich feel better about themselves.
I felt a bit judgmental when I first read that story. Now, I stop to ponder the things I do and the motives behind them. How many times have a preached with the hope that people will notice or recognize me? How many times have I given with the awareness that someone is watching? How many times have I made myself feel good by the kind thing I did for someone in need with far less focus on the deep needs of the person I was “helping?” Again, ouch!
You can judge me if you want. I understand. I just hope that you will ask yourself the hard “motive questions” before you complete your thoughts. At the end of the day, we ALL must face the words of the only completely selfless person who ever lived: "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28 NLTse)
“It’s not about me” is a popular saying, but maybe we all need to stop ourselves from quoting it too quickly. How can we measure whether those words are really true in us? Here are a few questions we might ask ourselves:
1. Do I really care about the need I am meeting?
2. Do I genuinely love the ones who have the need?
3. Do I expect anything in return for giving to this need?
4. If only God and me ever know that I gave or served, is that good (even preferable)?
The moment that my personal reward or the attention of others is no longer my motivation for giving/serving is the moment I am ready to live more selflessly. “Serve the World Selflessly” is the third step in the Stone Ridge Church discipleship process and serving is in the DNA of our church (God put it there!). Truth be told, we don’t always get it right and we sometimes give/serve for the wrong reasons. But we’re learning! That’s why we will talk about it again this weekend. I hope you can be there, but if you can’t make it, catch the podcast!