How much does God want me to serve others?
BY AL EARLEY
My friend, Betty, had suffered the loss of her beloved daughter, and was in desperate search for something to help heal her broken heart. She spoke to her minister who suggested she volunteer at the local helping agency to get her out of her house and help her to think about something else besides her grief. She started volunteering one day a week, then two, and soon she was helping every day of the week. By the time I got on the Board of Directors she was the director of the agency. Her kind heart, common sense, and desire to help others helped her become an amazing director. I asked about her story, and it went something like this.
“I had always been a homemaker, and loved raising my daughter. When my husband left me, and my daughter died in a short period of time my heart was broken, and I was so depressed I couldn’t do anything most days. My minister suggested I get involved helping others, that it might help me heal. It did that and so much more. As I saw the way I could help other people God gave me a new mission in life, and I love what I do. I am so grateful I have had the chance to work at this center.”
Jesus calls his followers to put their faith into action in many different ways. When he was washing his disciples’ feet he said, “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:13-15).
In Matthew 28:31-46 we have the “Parable of the Sheep and the Goats.” In this parable Jesus teaches that he will bring a special reward, his very presence, to those that serve others. He says in verse 40, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” At the same time Jesus also warns that those who neglect helping people in need will experience harsh judgment. The choice is ours. The consequences have eternal implications.
Through the years I have been blessed far beyond my wildest expectations by being involved in the lives of others through service in the name of Jesus Christ. People have asked me many questions about serving others, and one of the most intriguing questions is, “How much time does God expect me to spend serving others?” The Bible does not give any specific guidelines, but reporting this fact to goal oriented Americans usually leaves them confused, and often presented a barrier to even serving others at all.
A new member of my church overheard someone ask the question about how much time should he spend serving, and stepped in when I offered my less than inspiring understanding of the scriptures. He said, “I have always thought of my time serving as similar to the gifts of money God gives me to take care of me. Just as God requires a minimum of a 10 percent gift back to his church, so I think it is good to see the same requirement regarding the time in life God has given me. So, I try to tithe (10 percent) time as well as money to the Lord. It has worked well through the years, and God has used it to bless others as well as myself. I recommend it!”
So do I. Tithing the gift of time God has given you is a good place to start. For many of you this may require some careful restructuring of your calendar. Please do not simply run out and fill your life with busy assignments. Take some time to pray, talk to wise, spirit-filled friends, talk to your pastor, and pray some more, so that you are not just doing stuff that seems meaningful to you. Make sure your service for others is focused on how God wants to use you. Then it will truly add great meaning and purpose to your life.
How many hours a week to you spend serving others? Take some time to calculate this. Is this enough? Why do you serve in the places you serve? Is that where God wants you? Who can you talk to that can bring objective wisdom to your search? Take the time to faithfully answer these questions, and watch God change your life in profound ways.
(To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles, see www.lagrangepres.com.)