the weblog of Alan Knox

It is difficult to be served

Posted by on Mar 7, 2009 in love, service | 9 comments

Have you ever noticed that it is often difficult to allow someone else to serve you? I’ve found this true in my own life, and I saw it someone else’s life last week.

A elderly lady who lives in the government assisted housing project where we spend time each week has skin cancer on her ear. My wife found out last week that she needs a special pillow so that she can sleep without pain, but she can’t afford the pillow. I talked to the lady, found out how much the pillow cost, and we decided that we could afford to buy the pillow for her.

When I told her that we wanted to buy the pillow for her, she protested. She didn’t want us to spend our money on her pillow. I asked her, “Have you ever bought anything for someone else? Have you ever had the opportunity to serve someone else?”

She replied, “Oh, yes! Many times, especially when I was younger and in better health. It was a blessing from God to be able to serve other people.” (Seriously, I’m not making this up.)

I said, “Then, why would you deny us the opportunity to serve you?”

Of course, I’ve seen this same response in myself as well. I love to do things for other people, but I don’t often like it when other people do things for me. Why? Well, in my own life, I would have to say that it’s pride. Yep. I’m proud. And, by the way, that’s sin.

I like to think that I’m independent… which is a complete lie. In reality, I am dependent on God. And, since God often works through his children, we are interdependent upon one another. But, we’re so proud that we often refuse the help that God provides us. In fact, we often even refuse to admit that we need help.

Pride. We should just admit it. It’s sin, and it’s hurting our relationship with God and with one another.


9 Comments

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  1. 3-7-2009

    Perhaps there is another way of looking at this. In our culture, there is often an expectation that when someone serves us, we must repay them in some way. When my mother was elderly, she was reluctant to accept help because she felt she could not repay. I do not think this was pride on her part. Most of her friends thought this same way.

    Think about it this way – When you have asked a certain person or family to your home several times for a meal, but they have never returned the favor, especially when you know they could, do you continue to invite them? Almost everyone I know does not.

    Most of us know that this is expected. I know some people who will not accept dinner invitations because they know they do not intend to return the favor. I also heard someone say that they know they’ll get invited only once or twice because they will not return the favor.

    I wonder if similar thinking is applied to other kinds of serving. When we serve, do we expect repayment? (Do we get upset if we aren’t at least repaid with a “Thank You”?) When we are served, do we think we are expected to repay?

    Somewhere I read that when someone serves us, we actually become their servant. I know people who think this way.

    Perhaps we must explain to some people that we serve them because we love God, and through Him love people, not because we expect something in return.

    What do you think?

  2. 3-7-2009

    Alan, yes, I do notice this! I noticed it when there were a number of occasions where people denied me the opportunity to minister to them, or to pay for something. Paul gladly received support from a church, even though he didn’t need it, because it benefited to their account. I think we should all accept things from others, not because we need those things, but the other people are edified by doing those deeds, and it can be a source of great joy for them. Refusal of others’ good deeds can be a disappointment to them.

    I’ve actually realized that refusing charity from others can be a form of exercising superiority over them. I’ve known people that ALWAYS pay for dinner, refuse to let me help them in any way whatsoever. If they always pay for dinner, then I develop a guilt conscience over my menu choice, because I “know” the tab will be on them before we even order.

    A word of wisdom: let people exercise charity and good will toward you. God just might reward them for it.

  3. 3-7-2009

    Alan,

    I agree with you. It is hard to let others serve us, because of pride. And pride is a sin.

    I had a serious illness some years ago when I was still single, where I had to let others serve me, because I could not do certian things for myself. It was very difficult. But I knew that God was dealing with my pride.

    Just like you, I like to think of myself as independent. But, I know that I am not. I am extremely dependent upon God, and that is a great place to be.

    Blessings,
    Gary

  4. 3-7-2009

    Sam,

    I understand what you’re saying, and I do believe the independent spirit (along with an expectation of repaying or begin repaid) has been taught to many generations – my own included. That doesn’t mean that its right. We’re relearning how to serve people without expecting anything in return – even a “Thank you”. We’re also relearning how to be served by others. Its not always an easy leasson.

    Steve,

    Yes. We must be willing to serve and we must be willing to be served. Its not a comfortable position for me to be served – I prefer to be the one serving. But, God is teaching me.

    Gary,

    The same thing happened to us when my wife had ankle surgery a couple of years ago. We were not in a position to refuse, and God taught us a great lesson through that experience.

    -Alan

  5. 3-7-2009

    Alan,

    Your question: "Have you ever noticed that it is often difficult to allow someone else to serve you?"

    Yes!

    Living in a faith situation, with our five children, soon caused my wife and I to realise the sin of pride (independence) was large in us, promoting in us a strong independent spirit. We were soon grateful for any offer of service.

    No! I cannot say I'm cured of the sin of independence. Wish I could.

    Adam & Eve found out the results of independence from God who wanted to serve them by providing their every need.

    Whether we like it or not, or even recognise it, we are all still dependent on Him, as He ministers to(serves) us through others, in one way or another.

    Many of us were raised to not accept the kind-hearted service of others, through fear of "owing" areturn favour.

  6. 3-7-2009

    The first few years of my walk I had to depend on many people to help me out. I had to quickly allow the pride within to be shattered and be in a position to let others serve me. The problem (or blessing) I faced was that there were so many people helping, I was tempted to take advantage of it. In some ways, I’m sure that I did.

    In principle though, I was able to come back from a street person with a habit, to a clay pot being shaped by the Master. I am actually still wearing some help that someone gave me as a gift, a hard one to accept (5g’s/braces) and I didn’t pay a dime to get them.

    Might be a stretch, but if you saw the health of my teeth prior to this you would know why I needed them, and to accept it was hard, but I will say now, my practice is refuse once, and if someone insists a second time, I will gladly take all the help I can get.

    Being helped helps you to help others is my philosophy.

  7. 3-7-2009

    Aussie John,

    Thanks for the comment. I’m learning to be served, but its still difficult for me. Pride keeps raising its ugly head, and I enjoy being independent too much – at least thinking that I’m independent.

    When we truly understand that God serves us through others, we may be more willing to allow others to help us… or not. :)

    Faithful Servant,

    “Being helped helps you to help others”… that’s a good philosophy, and I think its true.

    -Alan

  8. 3-7-2009

    I remember when we moved last summer seveal members of our church came and helped us move. When we got to the new house, a man and his three sons showed up to help us unload in addition to the three guys already there. I basically just stodd there and told people where to put stuff. I cried later. I mean, I can’t even put into words how awsome it was to have those people come and help us like that.

  9. 3-8-2009