Opportunities abound in our community to volunteer … countless boards, organizations, and fundraisers operate wholly on the efforts of those who SERVE. And, undoubtedly, many incredible programs, opportunities, and countless dollars have resulted from such efforts.
Seemingly, people are taking Paul’s words in Philippians 2:4 to heart …
“Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (2:4) … as they offer their time and their energy for various positions and missions within our community.
Ideally, such volunteering is accomplished by those who “agree [sic] wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose” (more advice from Paul) (2:2). We’ve certainly seen evidence of this in the countless “Support for Court” pursuits in our community right now.
Unfortunately though, I would argue that the culture surrounding volunteerism in our community, at times, isn’t so genuine. Arguments ensue, nasty notes are sent, people become upset about an unfair division of labour, judgment pervades as one person (or group) is constantly volunteering, while others are seemingly “doing nothing.” Volunteers become completely overwhelmed because they’ve bit off more than they can chew or their “obligations” have increased to a volume that NO ONE can handle WELL. Volunteering and fundraising, for many, has become just “one more thing” for people to do.
The heart and spirit behind serving others (an IMPORTANT part of our lives here on earth) seems to have fizzled. Our attitudes do not reflect Jesus’ attitude, as Paul recommends (2:5); instead, we are filled with bitterness, anxiety, and feelings of complete overwhelm.
People are becoming over-taxed or completely maxed out, and the potential consequences of this for God’s people is concerning. I personally don’t believe that when Paul encourages the Philippians to “take an interest in others,” he meant work yourself to the point of exhaustion … to a place where the volunteer becomes unwell … to a place where the volunteer is resentful or spiteful or bitter … instead, I think Paul is challenging the Philippians (and us) to a life of SERVICE … a life in which we do not think ONLY of ourselves (he does say, “don’t be selfish” (2:3)). He discourages us from “try[ing] to impress others,” while preaching about the importance of being humble as we serve.
We glorify God when we serve.
We DO NOT glorify God when we serve for OUR OWN GLORY (or the glory of man) though. Perhaps this is where the DISCONTENT in the hearts of our volunteers stems from. We are volunteering for the WRONG reasons.
If we are volunteering to “look good,” we ARE NOT glorifying God. If we are volunteering, and it is impacting us in a way that makes it difficult to serve our own families WELL, we ARE NOT glorifying God. Of course, a SMALL sacrifice for a short period of time is acceptable (and necessary) at times, but it needn’t be ONGOING.
If we are volunteering in a manner that utilizes the talents and gifts God granted us, we ARE glorifying God.
Consider these words from Peter …
“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen!” (Peter 4:10-11).
This isn’t to say that we cannot “stretch” ourselves and volunteer for something that appears to be out of our comfort zone or talent base. God is brilliant at challenging us in this way and is also glorified as we grow in character and in spirit.
But as Paul has challenged the Philippians, I will challenge YOU.
Are you volunteering for the “right” reasons and in the “right” way?
Here are a few “markers” that might demonstrate your love for God’s glory (as opposed to Man’s glory) from Sarah Walton @ unlockingthebible.org …
- When others praise you, you feel genuinely humbled, undeserving, and overwhelmed by God’s grace in your life.
- You persevere in doing good and find joy in serving Christ, even when it isn’t glamorous and goes unappreciated.
- You find pleasure in exercising the unique gifts that God has given you, no matter the outcome or level of success it brings.
- You are excited for those who do well and compassionate and gracious towards those who fail.
- You are honest about your struggles, failures, and sin.
- You do not feel the need to portray a certain type of life on social media and do not need a certain amount of likes, comments, shares, friends, or followers to feel good about yourself.
- You seek to know and pursue what Christ values more than climbing the ladder of success and seeking what the world values.
- You extend grace and forgiveness to those around you, seeking unity in Christ, rather than self-protection and justice.
- You do not feel threatened or intimidated by those who seem to be more spiritually mature than you, but you humbly desire to learn from others, resting in the knowledge that we are all saved by grace and in different places in our faith.
*You can find the full article here.
Being human, I sometimes catch myself serving for my own glory (or “Man’s” Glory) …
- At times, I am motivated or unmotivated by the praise or lack of praise from those around me.
- My decisions, at times, are driven by what others might think.
- I become discouraged, at times, when my efforts go unappreciated.
- And I catch myself being drawn, at times, to the type of work and serving opportunities that will be noticed and praised by others.
I am sure that many of you can relate to this.
But this isn’t TRUE, God-Glorifying SERVICE …
God is glorified when we serve our families and when we serve our children (lovingly … not from a place of overwhelm).
God is glorified when we utilize the talents and gifts that He gave us.
God is glorified when we contribute to a cause in a way that ONLY we can because of what’s INSIDE of us.
God is glorified when I teach my children to serve each day.
Right now, most of this happens in our home, but we do take opportunities to serve as they present themselves in our community … but ONLY IF we can still maintain a sense of peace in our home, and ONLY IF we have something to offer (within our capabilities). We DO NOT volunteer for things that will breed resentment, bitterness, or overwhelm, but we DO …
- hold the door open for someone
- say “hello” to people we meet
- complete a household chore (without arguing)
- raise and donate money
- pray for others
- give random gifts
- return someone’s cart at the grocery store
- send thank you cards
- shovel the walk for someone
- use our manners
- and smile
(at least MOST of the time).
There are SO MANY little things WE (and YOU) can do each day to SERVE … AND WE DO (and I am sure you do too) … WE MUST always be mindful though of WHO we are serving? Our Creator. And ALWAYS ask yourself WHY you are serving? ALWAYS serve for the glory of God. May it be so.