Wandering in Unbelief
It’s difficult to steward our time, talents, and treasure well in a world that invites us to self-satisfaction and self-fulfillment. Perhaps the most countercultural thing we can do is to humbly serve others without thinking of ourselves. However, there are a few lies that keep us from service.
Lie 1: “I Don’t Have Time in This Seasonā€¯
Whatever season you’re in, I’m sure you’re busy. Your days overflow with demands from work, friends, family, and errands to do. It’s easy to raise the white flag in surrender and tell ourselves we’ll just have to wait to serve others at another time. Right now, we’re too busy, overwhelmed, and worn out. What we need is a Netflix binge, not more opportunities to serve. We assure ourselves that in the next season we’ll have more time to serve others.
However, I’ve found that there’s never a perfect season for serving others. While there are some seasons that particularly stretch us, usually we’re pretty good at filling any free parts of our schedule with something we enjoy. We may think next year will have an abundance of time, but it actually may have less time because of unexpected struggles or trials.
Here’s the reality: service to others comes at a cost to ourselves. We surrender how we’d like to use our time in order to give it away to others. It’s not an easy choice to make. It forces us to lift our eyes off ourselves and onto Jesus, who for the joy set before him endured the cross. He gave his life in service to you and me. We can be radical in how we use our day today because we know eternity awaits.
Lie 2: “My Service Doesn’t Matterā€¯
In my current season, I spend a lot of time traveling and teaching the Bible to women. My time on the road means I’m not always able to bring a meal to a hurting friend or volunteer in certain ways. I know it may sound exciting to travel and teach, but sometimes I struggle with the feeling that my work really doesn’t matter. Since I can’t always see the effects, I question if the hours of preparation are worth it. I wonder if anyone even remembers what I said after I leave. I can look at some of my other friends who serve in more tangible ways in our community and think to myself, they are the ones doing the real ministry.
You may feel the same way about your service. Maybe you deal with chronic pain that prevents you from many forms of service, but you faithfully pray for others daily from your couch. Perhaps you patiently listen to the struggles of others and offer wise counsel. Perhaps you’ve taught the same children’s Sunday school class for thirty years at church and know all the children by name. Your service may seem hidden or insignificant, but God sees your efforts and knows your deeds done in humility. Many small acts of service build a vibrant church, change the surrounding community, and impact the world.
Lie 3: “God Doesn’t Need My Moneyā€¯
When it comes to giving our money away, it’s tempting to think it doesn’t really matter. If God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Ps. 50:10), why does he need our money? Of course God doesn’t need our money, but he does use our money as a means by which he accomplishes his purposes.
More than that, money acts as a barometer for our faith. We give because the Spirit is alive in our hearts. As we are increasingly changed into the image of Jesus, we increasingly reflect the generosity of our Savior, and that overflows into monetary giving.
We may think to ourselves, “I’ll give more when I have more.ā€¯ However, it’s important to realize that it’s difficult for both the rich and the poor to give. While we might assume it’s easier for the wealthy to give, it was the rich ruler who left Jesus very sad because he couldn’t imagine giving away his wealth (Luke 18:18ā€“20). In contrast, the poor widow was commended by Jesus: “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on”(Luke 21:3).
Jesus knows what it costs you to give from what you have. He’s not asking you to give because he needs your money. He’s asking you to give because it’s good for your soul. The faithful act of giving builds faith. It also builds joy, for as anyone who gives generously can tell you, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”(Acts 20:35).
Walking by Faith: Good News for Grace-Filled Living
As we walk by faith, we become people who give to others. We share our time, our talents, and our treasure to care for those in our church and those in the world. Not only do we give, but we do so cheerfully, generously, sacrificially, and lovingly. Our attitude matters as we give. It’s the overflow of a heart that delights to share with others out of the abundance we have received.
Generously and Cheerfully
In the midst of severe affliction and poverty, the Macedonian church gave joyfully as God’s grace overflowed from their lives. How could they give in such a way in the midst of their own suffering? God was at work in and through them. He supplied so they could give: “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God”(2 Cor. 9:11). God gives to us so that we can give to others so that others will give thanksgiving to God.
How we give matters. Paul explained, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver”(2 Cor. 9:7). This verse doesn’t mean that we wait until we feel cheerful and then give. It means that if we’re giving without joy, we need to do a heart check. Giving is an act of worship. If we’re cheerless in our service, it says something about our attitude toward God. Ask God to fill you with a deeper understanding of all that is yours in Christ. We don’t serve to be seen or receive praise from others but in overflow of praise to God.
Sacrificially and Lovingly
Paul wrote, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship”(Rom. 12:1). Gospel-centered giving is costly giving. It requires sacrifice.
It’s an uncomfortable question to ask ourselves, but it’s one that needs asking: How sacrificial is my giving? What is it costing me today to serve others?
I tend to want to run from these words of Jesus: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me”(Luke 9:23). I long for comfort and ease, and cross bearing sounds difficult and painful. However, in the upside-down way of the gospel, as we lay down our lives, death to self gives birth to life. We may feel like we’re being consumed, but we do not lose heart. Even if the outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16).
We give sacrificially because we love others. In both Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12, Paul uses the analogy of the body to explain how we’re all to serve one another. In both instances he concludes by exhorting them to love one another. First Corinthians 13 (the wonderful passage explaining love) flows out of Paul’s teaching on service. He concludes 1 Corinthians 12 by telling them that the most excellent way they can serve is to love (1 Cor. 12:31). If we’re in Christ, no matter what particular gifting we may individually have, we’re all equipped to love. It’s our family resemblance and the common DNA we share.
We’ve been blessed to be a blessing. In whatever way we serve with our time, talents, or treasure, let us do so with generosity, cheerfulness, sacrifice, and love. As we reflect the love we’ve been given, our service shines to the watching world.