Can I be honest for a moment? Can I share a bit of my heart and my inner struggle with you? I wrestle with my motivations to love and serve the "least of these" around me.
One of the major themes throughout scripture is the call and challenge to love my neighbor. The words of the prophet of old ring loud in my ear, "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8, ESV). The ministry of my Lord and Savior Jesus kicked off with these words, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18–19, ESV).
I have oriented my life around this call and mission. Giving of my time, talent and treasure is a regular part of my lifestyle, but even as I do "good" and am an Intentional Blessing to those around me, I have a nagging Holy Spirit gut-check challenging me to examine why I do what I do.
The question that the Holy Spirit is currently asking me is, "Why do you want to help the poor? What really motivates you?" If I am honest… pride and self-aggrandizement. Most of the time, I am on a mission and generous for my own glory and honor. I seek the approval of others. I want to be known as that guy! I want to be the guy that is on the leading edge, giving his all and laying down his life for others. I want a Christian Gold Star on my Performance Chart in Heaven. Paul wrestled with this same heart and expressed it so well by saying, "So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand" (Romans 7:21, ESV).
So what do I do with this feelling? Where do I turn? Where is the hope? The hope is the gospel. The hope is in remembering that I can never earn favor with God or others by my actions. Jesus is my only way to approach God. Check out this passage in Ephesians:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:1-10, ESV).
Paul reminds his readers that the gospel gives us humility as we serve. Verse 9 says, "it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." If I have a right understanding of the gospel, I am free from finding my identity in what I do (serving and being generous to others), but should find it in who I am (Jesus' son) and His work (on the cross). If I have a right understanding of the gospel, I love others because of Christ's love, not to get honor and glory from myself out of serving them.
Yes I am called to be an Intentional Blessing to others, as verse 10 says, "…created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them," but the challenge in serving others is to wrestle with my motives. Why do I do what I do?
So I challenge you: Why do you do what you do?
Do you do it for others?
Or for Christ?