It is interesting to see how childhood Bible stories influence one’s perspective on life. The story of the Good Samaritan, for example, has appreciably shaped my attitude towards the needy. The story of Jesus’ instructions to a rich young man—“Sell all you have, give it to the poor and come follow me.”—influenced my opinion about wealth and stewardship. Somewhere, tucked away in my psyche, grew an embryonic attitude towards wealth, sacrifice and spiritual service.
Ironic, that after thirty years of studying the Bible and teaching, I realized that both those stories begin with an identical question asked by two different men. The answers Jesus gave were remarkably different. Why?
It was not Christ’s intent to establish a theological treatise on wealth, sacrifice, service or holiness. Jesus answer simply moved past the symptomatic question to a root issue that rested in the heart of each of these men. That root still lives.
The question asked was, “What do I have to do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus refocused it, exposing the limited extent of their love for God and others.
It is no surprise to hear that God deserves all of my heart. Add to that, all of my soul, and my strength and my mind. I can go through an entire day without ever considering it. I can commit myself to worship and study while allowing anger towards another to fester in my soul.
Jesus thrusts the question into the open. If I do not love my neighbour as much as I love myself, who do I love more? If I love myself more than my neighbour, do I have the ability to love God with all of my heart?
My perspective of myself colours all I see in others. The realization that God simply loves me without conditions sets me free from striving. It allows room in my priorities to be a blessing to others for their sake; not a quota requirement or an incremental hike on a holiness meter.
I need my neighbours. They become someone to focus upon other than myself. Each of them would treasure being blessed. Therein is the magic, or maybe more appropriately—the wonder.
God longs for us to serve because it is in that position of humility that he works our transformation. Any time we invest in something other than our- selves, we take a submissive posture. From this place of submission, God begins our metamorphosis into his image.
It is a sobering moment to realize that, from God’s perspective, the ultimate reason for our acts of service is for our benefit. In this context we begin to real- ize how much we are in need of relationship with others. Those in need provide the perfect opportunity for us to serve. They come to us in all shapes and sizes, from every economic level and position. When we serve, we release the attitudes of entitlement, the demands for our rights and the temptation to allow
pleasure to dominate responsibility.
In that respect, we may need the poor more than the poor need us. This realization helped me recognize my “Big Brother” posture. People do not want us to fix their problems for them. They want to be valued and have their God-given dignity restored. They desire to be enabled to meet their own needs.
David Collins is our new interim lead pastor! He is the founder of Canadian Food for the Hungry International, the Global Hunger Foundation, and Paradigm Ministries. He's been a pastor, CEO, consultant and mentor. He and his wife have worked abroad to seek sustainable solutions in the midst of human cruelty and natural disasters. Author of two books, David continues to help people understand the power of ideas and how someone's motives correspond to Biblical integrity.