The Path of ServiceJohn 13:13-17Theme: Foot-washing.This week’s lessons teach us how to encourage one another and share each other’s burdens. LessonWe must help one another. The desperation people have in needing to talk to someone is not always merely their desire to be heard, although that is important in itself. It is also often the case that they need help, and so their speech is really a cry for assistance. We will find that if we stop to listen to people, their needs will come rushing to the surface and we will have infinitely more to do than wash their feet. There will be people to feed, thirsty ones to whom to give a drink, naked people to clothe, lonely people to visit, sick and dying persons to care for, and so on for a host of other needs and obligations.
The problem here is that helping people is very seldom convenient. We have our own schedule, and our hours and days are full. This is perhaps a bit truer in our time with the frantic pace of modern life, but our situation is not fundamentally different from what people of earlier days experienced. It is always inconvenient to help others. It was inconvenient for the Samaritan to help the poor man who had fallen prey to thieves, in Jesus’ parable. He had his own journey after all. He too was on the way to Jericho. He too had business or family obligations. He interrupted these. He stopped his journey, attended to the wounded man, deviated from his itinerary in order to take the victim to an inn; he spent the night, paid for his care, and then planned to return the same way after his own business was attended to in order to settle whatever leftover expenses there may have been. This is what service means. It means putting the other’s well-being ahead of our own schedule.
We must also give to others. The world says, “What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine, if I can get it.” The Christian says, “I have nothing but what I have first received from God, and therefore I am only a steward of my possessions. What’s mine is yours, if you have need of it.”
In the history of the church there have been Christians who have taken sacrificial giving to the extreme of selling all they had and at once distributing it to the poor or to the church for its administration. At one point the Christians in Jerusalem did this (Acts 2:44-45). Monastics take perpetual vows of poverty. This is a form of Christian living that God may call some to at one time or another. But it is clear that this cannot be the whole of Christian obligation; for if all Christians in every place and at all times sold their goods and lived a common life in near-poverty conditions, no one would have anything to give to others again. To give to others does not mean that we must give everything or even that we should stop making money through honorable work. On the contrary, for some it could mean trying to make more so we will have more to give. It means that we must be generous with what we have, not counting it our own but rather that which God has given us for others’ benefits.
And while we are thinking of giving our money or goods to help others, we must not forget that the best giving is often giving ourselves. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians about financial matters, he commended the Macedonian churches for their rich generosity, explaining, “and they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will” (2 Cor. 8:5). The Macedonians were able to be generous with their money because they had first been generous with themselves. Having given themselves to God and others, their material goods followed along naturally.
Why do we often fail to help those in need?
What does Christian service require of us?
Recount what Dr. Boice said about Christians and poverty.
What is the ultimate way to give?
What makes generosity possible?
ApplicationDo you give of yourself on a weekly basis? Often we give either our time or our money, but true giving involves both. If your giving has been deficient in either aspect, give in a new and sacrificial way to others this week.