Today: Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Are you fit... for service?    (10/19/2008)

Listening to a programme on the radio some months ago, I heard people in the street being asked whether they'd ever thought about becoming a volunteer for a charity or a youth organisation. Many said they already did help out at things like Brownies, running a football team for 11-year-olds, or the local woodland project. Others said they'd like to, but couldn't at present.

One young man, though, asked incredulously: “ Why would I want to do that? Why would I want to work for nothing? I'm only interested in making money and doing what I want!”

I thought that was rather sad, really, but it also got me thinking—why do we do things for others for nothing?

Within the family, one can understand it. Charity begins at home, we tell ourselves, but is that as far as it should go? Many of the organisations which use volunteers say that the volunteer usually gets as much out of a project as the organisation does. I know several older people for whom helping out at Oxfam is the highlight of their rather lonely week.

Why not get a paid position, though? Most people, I think, feel that life is OK—and that there are always others who are worse off than they are, and they'd like to help out in some way.

Christian tend to call it ‘service' rather than volunteering, and see it as part of their Christian lifestyle. Jesus himself said that he had come not to be served, but to serve. What a stunning thought!

Jesus the one who created the world: yet the Son of God come to serve his creation . The rulers of his time imagined that anyone who claimed to be God would demand service of a very high standard from everyone around them—after all, they themselves did! Jesus, though, gave the ultimate example of service: not just a few hours helping an elderly neighbour by cutting their grass or washing up after a community lunch, but in giving up his whole life.

That doesn't mean that he did his teaching for nothing, with no pay: it literally means he died so that we could get back into relationship with God. For us as his followers, living like Jesus did means that service is not an optional extra, but an integral part of life.

Over the centuries, Christians have felt called to serve in all sorts of places around the world, and still do. They may be on long-term or short-term projects with very diverse aims, but they all see themselves as serving others. What a wonderful thing gap years are, enabling youngsters to take time out and give of themselves to projects around the world. They gain a lot—but so do those with whom they work and spend time.

I think that guy on the street has missed the point somewhere along the line. But maybe he'll learn the real kick you can get by giving yourself in service to others!

Pray: Father, remind me that I am part of a community, and help me to see the needs of other around me. Let me use the gifts and talents you have given me in service to them. Amen.

Think about: When have you been on the receiving end of help, support or kindness, which came from someone who wasn't a friend or family and who wasn't paid to do it? Perhaps it was something organised, like a youth group, or perhaps it was just someone who put themselves out to help you when you really needed it. What effect did it have on you at the time, and what has it meant in the long run?

Challenge: Consider the skills and talents God has given you. Ask yourself what sort of causes or situations tug on your heart-strings, or which get you fired up about social justice. What could you give of your time, compassion and gifts which could be used to help in these situations? Think about this over the next couple of weeks, and actively start looking for an opportunity to serve in this way.

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