I’m not sure what prompted Uday G Mohite when he sketched this compelling piece of illustration. But it does represent the darker side of human beings well. It reminds me of a question my good friend asked me some time ago, ‘why do people call selfies, selfies?’ And then he went on to answer it, ‘because its hard to pronounce the word narcissistic.’ A little too harsh but you get the point, right?
Uday’s picture captures this syndrome very well. For me, this particular picture is about what it represents -Fake Service and the inability to see the Person well. It is my desire to contrast what this picture represents with what Jesus Christ taught and modelled.
In no way, I’m trying to suggest that people who serve & take pictures are self-centred. I don’t think we should judge anyone for taking pictures or videos. There are many out there who are genuinely helping the poor and needy, and for a good reason take pictures or videos. Many times their video stories inspire people to take action and serve. In fact, Jesus himself said,
‘You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.’
(Mathew 5: 14-16)
However, we all need to know there are bad examples of helping the poor. And it stems out of an increased desire for fame in today’s world. We live in an age of image. Access to smartphones with high-resolution cameras combined with the ability to quickly post/upload our activities online makes it that much easier to slip into self-absorption. In his book, The Road to Character, David Brooks says it well, “Social media encourages a broadcasting personality. Our natural bent is to seek social approval and fear exclusion…technology creates a culture in which people turn into little brand managers, using Facebook, Twitter, text messages and Instagram to create a falsely upbeat, slightly overexuberant…spending his or her time creating a self-caricature, a much happier and more photogenic version of real life.“
How do we recognise this danger and save us from ourselves?
Ask the WHY question to yourself:
Why do we want to help people – especially the poor and needy?
The Why kind of question is powerful.
Did you know the Bible has quite a few questions that begin with the WHY? Jesus used it regularly in challenging people around him. For example, Jesus asked,
‘Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?’ (Luke 6:46)
A question he asked towards the end of his famous Sermon we refer to as the Sermon on the Mount. In this message, taking into account from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus made the following clear,
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mathew 7:21)
So, what is the will of the Father in heaven? Reading the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5 through 7 it is clear that the will of the Father is not
Saying the right things (Matthew 7:21),
Doing the ‘right’ things (Matthew 7:22)
Hearing the right things (Mathew 7:26)
The will of God is in being Christlike. The Beatitudes and all that Jesus teaches on the Sermon on the Mount is a pretty good summary of what our Heavenly Father desires from each of His children. Jesus culminates by highlighting the importance of internalising the law of God deep within our hearts. It is not enough to obey the law as an external code but God wants us to internalise the law so that it becomes a lifestyle. It is our heart that God is after. Our deep internal motivations. When our external deeds is an outflow of the internal beatitudes, our Heavenly Father is pleased.
The question, why we do what we do becomes all-important in our discipline of deep self-examination. Chuck Swindoll asks a few questions quite frequently. They are,
- Why am I planning this?
- Why was I involved in that?
- Why did I say yes (or no)?
- Why did I write that letter?
- Why am I preaching this message?
- Why did I respond like that?
- Why did I mention that person’s name?
One day, Jesus will examine and reveal our motives and the quality of our service. Read what Paul writes to the church at Corinth:
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
(1 Corinthians 3:10-15)
So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.
(1 Corinthians 4:5 )
Ask the How question?
Apart from self-examining ourselves and purging ourselves from any ulterior selfish motives, we could be asking how do I do what I want to do in a way that is a true reflection of Chris-like service?
Some suggestions I can think about is to read what Richard Foster writes on what is is the difference between self-righteous service versus true service. Consider the following two from his long list:
- Self-righteous service is impressed with the “big deal.” It is concerned to make impressive gains on ecclesiastical score-boards. It enjoys serving, especially when the service is titanic. True service finds it almost impossible to distinguish the small from the large service. Where a difference is noted, the true servant is often drawn to the small service, not out of false modesty, but because he genuinely sees it as the more important task. He indiscriminately welcomes all opportunities to serve.
- Self-righteous service requires external rewards. It needs to know that people see and appreciate the effort. It seeks human applause— with proper religious modesty, of course. True service rests contented in hiddenness. It does not fear the lights and blare of attention, but it does not seek them either. Since it is living out of a new Center of reference, the divine nod of approval is entirely sufficient.
The point is how not to serve. Let’s do everything we can to eradicate self-righteous acts of service.
Finally, ask the Who question.
Who should be our role model in serving people? Of course, it has to be the Lord Jesus Christ if we claim to be his followers. When we read the gospels it becomes clear that Jesus was moved with compassion. Something we need to grasp. Being moved with compassion is what makes our service genuine. It cannot be replaced with civility. It comes out of a genuine lifestyle of worshipping the God of the Bible. The Bible says God is love. God is compassionate. Psalm 115:4 says, “Those who make them [idols] will be like them, and so will all who trust in them”. In other words, who/what we worship has a great influence on who/what we become. Like Warren Wiersbe rightly said, ‘we become like the gods we worship.’
If we worship ourselves, every act of kindness will be about us. If we worship our acts of kindness (the service itself) then our Service will define our identity. But on the contrary, if we worship the Lord Jesus Christ we will be influenced by his character. He will change us inside out. We will be led to serve people not because of guilt, or pride or self-gratification but because this ministry flows out of who we really are on the inside.
Our service should be packaged with dignity. It should help people find their worth and value in life. We shouldn’t take away poor people’s dignity when serving them and sometimes it means not taking that photograph without their permission. Instead, we should do all we can to love, respect and restore their dignity always remembering, it’s not about us. It is truly about them for the glory of our God.
Take a deeper look at Uday’s picture above and ask God to help you not to be like that guy with his smartphone & an un-smart motive. Let’s do all we can to unmask ourselves from every bit of selfishness and commit to serving like Jesus.