Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Popular Service

(azaleas after a rain in Tennessee)

It seems to me that serving your community, working for social justice, and helping others yourself or through a "middle-man" organization have become quite fashionable lately. It looks good on your college applications, it can embellish your resume, and it makes others look up to you and say, "You did a good thing! Congratulations!" In fact, as I was looking briefly at college scholarships earlier this year, I noted that service in one form or another is a major thing these scholarship-giving people look for on your essays and personal statements. They particularly seem to like high-profile service. Doing something unusual and preferably something somewhat earth-shaking, especially if you're a teen, gets you quite a lot of admiration--if not from your peers, then at least from authority figures and (everyone hopes) people with money.

The crux of this didn't hit me until I sat down for my evening worship one night, with a honors society "ad" sitting on the floor by my desk advertising "special service opportunities" as part of its package.

Suddenly I remembered something.

"25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. 27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—'" (Matt. 20:25-27)

Something didn't ring true--not about the Bible's instruction, for that, though radical, was as thought-provoking and challenging as always--but about all this excitement about service in the world as a whole. How was it that the world suddenly seemed excited about the same thing that Jesus recommended? Don't those two philosophies have a history of clashing?

What does God see as valuable service?

Isaiah 58:
6 “ Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?"

I'm still thinking about that. Thinking hard, sometimes. I don't think God is after recognition in these verses. He's not talking about service we do for "fun"; He's talking about the "fast" He has chosen for us. Fasts aren't fun. They're about denying our wants for something better. Right here, it's talking about denying our own wants for the blessing of serving others. Not saying we can't ever do something fun, or that we're called to asceticism, to living in caves and eating moldy bread!

But I think I look for recognition way too often. What will other people think? Will they appreciate me for talking to the new kid, emailing a friend, posting an encouraging Facebook comment? Or for being here at home, taking care of the house, cleaning or cooking a meal or talking with my family?

But God doesn't care what others think. Whatever it is, He sees and He appreciates. And that's all He cares about...not what "They" think.

That's what I need to remember.

(This post is part of the Raising Homemakers Link-Up)

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