"Bitter Generosity"

Every once in a while God adjusts my attitude.  The attitude is self-pity; the adjustment is humility.  Sometimes the adjustment is my idea and He is gentle.  Other times He just slaps it out of me. The headline grabbed my attention.  “Men sue woman they saved from burning SUV.”  Two men, honored as heroes, looked back at their actions and felt slighted.  The article said they sought in excess of $25,000 for physical and emotional damages.  Okay.  I’m not an attorney; so I have no idea what legal recourse the men might have, but it does tarnish the whole “hero” thing, don’t you think?  I was feeling rather high and mighty about all this; then I began to reflect on my own attitude toward serving others.

There is no more miserable existence than to do the right thing for the wrong reason.  To serve others for self, will frustrate others and destroy self.  I suppose it comes with the territory in leadership and ministry.  You begin to look around and think about the sacrifices you’ve made, and how little the world seems to notice.  All of which are magnified when you push the sacrifices made indirectly by your family up in front, and pretend “it’s not about me.”

This isn’t to diminish the extraordinary sacrifices made by clergy, laity, and their families. In ministry, every day priorities are adjusted and comforts are laid down and I know this. So does Jesus.  Consequently, I believe Jesus wants us to experience every ounce of joy that service in His Name can bring.  This is why it matters how we do what we do.

The truth is on our worst day most of us have not been forced to “resist unto blood” as the Scripture states; so we should be grateful.  And most days I am.  But there are other days.  Days like the day I delivered groceries to a family, who had called the church for help, just as their big screen television was being delivered.  I’m pretty sure there won’t be any jewels in my crown for that one.  The best way to describe my attitude was bitter generosity.

And so, in order to actually enjoy ministry, I’ve decided I need to do more than just do what Jesus did. I need to ask God to help me to do it the way Jesus did it. The latter is tougher than the former.  For me, it’s what incarnational ministry is all about; serving with unconditional love and with a risky, dangerous, grace.

It’s one thing to wash feet.  It’s quite another not to whine about it.  It’s one thing to touch a leper.  It’s another not to go “ewwwwwww” when you do. It’s one thing to take a couple steps on water.  It’s definitely another not to broadcast the fact that you did, do a touchdown dance, and offer to sign autographs back in the boat.  It’s one thing to feed the multitudes. It’s another thing not to send them a bill when it’s over.

I have noticed leaders age differently.  Some grow bitter.  Some grow sweeter.  The difference, I believe, is the spirit with which they serve.  Christ gave us the example.  The Holy Spirit will empower us to live and love like Jesus, if we ask Him.  Let’s ask Him.

5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

(Philippians 2:5-11)