“I used to be a people person, until people ruined that for me.”
I found that little gem on Pinterest a while back, and it still cracks me up. Not only have people often proven themselves “unworthy” of my kindness
(I’m talking to you, SUV driver who cut me off after I moved over to let you pass), I’m also not much use where people’s emotions get out of hand. I just can’t be bothered with that sort of thing. I will gladly, compassionately listen to people talk about what’s important to them, even what’s burdening them, until the voice gets loud and high-pitched or the tear ducts start working, and then mentally I start back-pedaling. Mission abort! Mission abort!
We’re told at every turn by the world to ditch negative people. Get the drama queens and the needy out of our lives. Put ourselves first and then think about helping others. But part of the joy-filled, proactive faith we’re after involves people. Lots of ’em. With lots of difficulties we may or may not know about, often self-inflicted, often not. And if I’m going to live a proactive faith, it will mean getting my hands dirty with others’ needs.
- “I can’t deal with my own needs AND everyone else’s.”
- “He brought that on himself. We tried to warn him.”
- “There’s nothing I can really do to help her, so it’s best to just stay out of the way.”
Sound familiar? They do to me. Probably because I’ve said those things often. But it’s not how God intends for me to deal with people. He says:
- “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
- “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.” (Romans 12:10)
- “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” (II Corinthians 9:7-8)
We hear the latter passage a lot in regards to tithes and offerings, but it wasn’t just to keep the local church going. The church at Macedonia was suffering poverty and persecution, but nothing near like what the church at Jerusalem was going through. The Christians there were literally starving and being put to death. The Macedonians didn’t just shrug and say, “I can’t keep my own lights on, let alone donate anything”; they poured themselves out in a big way. Their sacrifice and generosity to help support those strangers-yet-brethren in need was crazy enough that Paul pointed them out as an example, saying, “Hey, look at these Macedonians. That’s what God calls cheerful giving!”
In II Corinthians 8:2 Paul says that their liberality was incredible, but their “deep poverty” abounded because of it. Their sacrifice didn’t make much sense, and it made their own families hungrier. But they had a secret that we first-world creatures of comfort have never scratched the surface of: The deeper their poverty, the more abundant their joy. Stop right there! “Give til it hurts” takes on a much deeper meaning – with a bigger reward than you thought.
Joy-Helpers, Or, How to Be Bothered and Like It: Proverbs 3:27-30 contains four fast attitude adjustment techniques for those days when I really just don’t want to be bothered with people.
- Give them the good they deserve without being asked. It’s really hard to part with a 20% tip at a restaurant. It’s a pain to offer to come over and help when you’d really just rather stay home and relax. It’s quite possibly the most difficult thing in life to take the smallest slice of cheesecake so your mother can have the biggest. (I just really love cheesecake, OK?!) “Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.”
- Just get over yourself and help out when you are asked. I recently overheard an older couple discussing plans with a friend for that evening, and the husband shook his head and said, “No, I’ve got a thing to do tonight.” “Like what?” his wife demanded. He scoffed and said, “Not going!” We do a lot of that internally, don’t we? If you’re that reluctant to help when you’re asked, just admit that you are experiencing an attitude problem and get it over with. “Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and tomorrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee.”
- Don’t take advantage of people. That should go without saying, but we do it all the time to people we think will never care – racing to a parking space, making others cover for you at work or in ministries so you can take a “break”, jokingly putting someone down to gain a cheap laugh. We live in a culture that thinks pranks and spitefulness and petty disrespect are all funny, but God has yet to see the humor. “Devise not evil against thy neighbour, seeing he dwelleth securely by thee.”
- Let the little things go. “Pass on the easy ones”, we say at home. You don’t need to bring up past failures, “innocently” or not (“I’m just checking to see if the car is locked because I remember you left it wide open that one time!”). You don’t need to defame someone on an internet forum for being a “spineless sheep” or an “idiot lib”; whether he is right or wrong, he has done no harm to you, and that kind of garbage is about the most godless way to handle strife anyway. We do our most unnecessary striving when we are too insecure to live without others’ validation. “Strive not with a man without cause, if he have done thee no harm.”
Until the next post, be bothered. Get emotionally involved. Get financially involved. Give the gift of time and concern. Try God and see if increasing your poverty doesn’t increase your joy as it did the Macedonians’. See what God does for a cheerful giver. See what He does for the one who obeys the “new commandment”: “As I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” (John 13:34)
And while we’re at it, let’s remember why we can let ourselves be bothered and like it: “Thanks be unto God for HIS unspeakable gift.”