When Sacrificing Isn’t: The Hidden Benefits of Service

Proverbs 11:24-25:

“There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty. The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.”  

Matthew 10:39:

“He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”

Luke 6:35:

“But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.”

Colossians 3:23-24:

“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.”

The implication of these verses really sunk in for me this season.

I was listening to an audio lesson from a pastor on the hidden benefits of service to others, even in situations where those receiving your assistance are unappreciative (or worse, begrudge your efforts). She called attention to some of the biblical promises of rewards conferred to those who prize service over self when presented with opportunity to further the Lord’s work.

(When I mention “Lord’s work” here, I’m not restricting that definition to tasks that directly benefit a religious organization .Anything that promotes God’s message of loving fellow man, edifying those around you, and spreading the Gospel through good works is covered here.

To you, this might be helping a neighbor you’ve never gotten along with shovel snow or lugging an elderly stranger’s groceries to their car.)

God promotes those who behave like disciples. I’m not talking about life-after-death pie-in-the-sky rewards, either: The dreams we treasure in the now—a fulfilling career, relationships that are the envy of all men, people arriving at just the right place at just the right time to see you through a previously-insurmountable problem—are suddenly within your grasp.

Walking the line between protecting what’s best for myself and sacrificing self-interest in the name of an ideal was on my mind. I’d been replaying recent disagreements I had with others over a perceived imbalance in contribution to a team effort. I needed a definitive rubric dictating how I’d handle future instances where my willingness to serve could be impacted by my disdain for those who refuse to carry their own weight.

The message from the pastor, along with solitary contemplation, initiated a seismic shift in how I approached these situations going forward.

My commitment to intentional sacrifice needed to withstand changes in circumstance. Summoning the same sort of discipline required to master one’s emotions would be pivotal to pulling this off.

Keeping an eye on why I wanted to contribute in the first place—and off the less-than-stellar effort of those I’m paired with—would maintain the right frame of mind. Understanding the benefits I stood to gain, regardless of the setting and players involved, only sweetened the prospect of service.

New information creates new realizations.

By letter of the law, I was technically-correct to shirk extra responsibility—above and beyond what I was already doing—and resent others for having to pick up their slack, I now realized I was robbing myself of the opportunity to exude grace and reap spiritual rewards from sowing seeds that I’d like to see more of myself. More people helping me in areas I need development; more family and friends pitching in down the road to help me with childcare and household responsibilities; more acquaintances and friends-of-friends volunteering to further my personal goals.

To be clear, this is not about seeking the praise of men or hunting for opportunities to shame others and exalt ourselves. We have enough people prolonging church gatherings by shouting “Hallelujah” every ten minutes and “casually” mentioning how often they volunteer at their local soup kitchen. We’re just exploring some of the hidden benefits of helping others, even when inconvenient.

Am I suggesting you become a doormat, forever subjugating your wants and needs to assist everyone else? No. You need solid boundaries to stay sane. Just keep your principles in mind when weighing when to stay the course and when to quit.

Merry Christmas and here’s to a great 2020.

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