Christians are sometimes called “do-gooders” by skeptics that observe our actions and scoff, rather than being impressed with our altruism. Many years ago, I worked with one of those. He explained to me that I, as a Christian, had the need and duty to give, therefore, he was there to take. I was flabbergasted. I had no response.
That conversation began a questioning process that would continue for years: why was I compelled to give and do for others? Was it only Christians that exhibited this behavior, or were we simply more likely to do so? I concluded it was probably the latter, as most of us have been taught it is better to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35) Beyond that, the application of Jesus’ words appeared to have very individual expressions. Some people would literally give the shirt off their backs, while giving for others came grudgingly. Some devoted their lives to God through full-time ministry, while others showed up at church on Sundays to occupy their usual pew, put something in the offering plate, and were done.
My own entry into full-time ministry created more questions, as I discovered this group of people was generally no closer to God than those who worked secular jobs. It was very disappointing to find the same selfishness and selfish ambition, the same judgments and accusations were at work, but were masked under the auspices of “serving God” – a cover-up that made those offenses worse. Worse yet, I had gotten sucked into the game. Why, again, was I doing this?
The bottom line was that I wanted to please God; and I believed serving God’s children was pleasing to Him. But, why was it so important for me to please Him? The Lord showed me a picture of a child completing a task, “Mommy, Daddy, look at what I did! Watch me! Are you proud of me?” Like the child, I was yearning for approval. So, I was either performing to receive love, or performing to prove I was worthy of being loved. Altruism had nothing at all to do with why I did what I did.
In every way, God has demonstrated His love for me before I knew how to love Him. The Lord of Creation lovingly knit me together in my mother’s womb, taking great care and delight to equip me with specific gifts and talents I would need to fulfill my calling and purpose. Those gifts were not given to me so I could prove my worth. Jesus established my worth by trading His priceless life for mine, so that I could spend eternity in the beauty of His Presence. If my existence is because of His love, and my talents are because of His love, and my salvation is because of His love, then why am I trying so hard to earn the love He has already showered upon me?
After Jesus arose from the grave, He asked Peter if he loved Him, then He told Peter to feed His sheep. (John 21:15-17) Peter did precisely that – not because he was commanded or compelled – but because it was his expression of loving Jesus. If I, like Peter, understand how completely and unconditionally I am loved, then I am free to use my gifts to serve others…because I want to…because I love Him. And that pleases Him.