Monday, August 9, 2010
The Tyrrany of Self-Interest
Since the school system in my community is growing, the schools build or expand a school every year. This cost is great although they tend to pay for it with bonds that somebody in the future will be afflicted with. With the complaints about taxes here, I also heard many retirees complain that they did not have children in school so why should they have to pay for them. While I would dispute their perspective on taxes in Tennessee, I can understand their opinion. Nobody likes to pay taxes. But I do not understand the idea that since you personally do not benefit from this program or that, you should not have to pay for it. That, to me, is the bald face of selfishness speaking -- and a short sighted selfishness at that. Who paid for the schools these folks went to or their children? Well, I digress...
We find ourselves at a point when self-interest has become the tyranny inflicted not only on social institutions but also the Church. I hear people say all the time that because they don't have kids in Sunday school, they are under no obligation to teach... and the same argument is used for nursery, youth group, and a host of other areas of church life. If I do not participate or it does not directly benefit me, why should I be expected to contribute, participate, or "volunteer"?
In addition, I get a slew of mail offering me tips on the care and feeding of "volunteers" so that they will enjoy their "volunteer" experiences, be rewarded by their service, and serve even more. In others words, if people don't get back as much as they give or get back more than they give from their serving, they won't serve. It is the tyranny of self-interest that raises its ugly head over and over again. I do not understand it and I have no sympathy for it.
We do not witness to the Gospel because it helps us, we witness because of the overwhelming power of God's grace that compels us to share the hope that it in us. We do not teach Sunday school because it is rewarding, we teach because children need to learn who God is through the voice of His Word so that they may confess Jesus Christ with their mouths and believe in Him in their hearts. We do not have Bible study because of the reward of being in Scripture, we are in Scripture because it is the cradle of Christ and it is the efficacious Word that does what it says and fulfills all its promises. We do not sing in the choir because we like to sing and we get something out of it, we sing in the choir because God is worthy to be praised for all that His mercy has accomplished in Christ and music is one of the means He has given us to offer Him this praise. I could go on but I won't. Suffice it to say that self-interest is not a motive in keeping with the Gospel.
Whether we are giving our dollars or our time, self-interest is not the gauge or measure of the success of that gift or the reason for giving. We give because Christ first gave us (to paraphrase a favorite Bible verse). I find myself wearied by the need to convince people to do the right thing because there is something in it for them. I don't know if the times have changed or I have changed, but it is shocking to see how the Church must grovel at the altar of self-interest in order to wake God's people up to what they can and should be doing simply because they are God's people. It does us no good to stoop down to the level of self-interest in order to seek people from within the congregation to do God's work and the seeds we will sow for this are the seeds of destruction that will kill the good places and good efforts of God's people to return to Him what He has given them.
It is not because it is in my self-interest that I should be a part of these things, but because the love of Christ compels me and serving Him is the joy of my heart (even though the actual things I do in this service may not be pleasing to me or rewarding).