“Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” Philippians 2:4
Have you ever been offended for putting others first? Think about that a second and let it soak in.
We have all had those moments when we open the door at the doctor’s office, let another person go first in the grocery store, or complete an unexpected chore at home without a nod, gesture, or even recognition for our deed. And there have been times for all of us that we are disappointed, frustrated, or even a little anger begins to brew. I mean, you did go out of your way to show them kindness and this is how they repay you? But just take a moment and reflect on that.
What I am describing is not so much an act of humility, but an exchange, contract, or an expectation that was not fulfilled. We have subconsciously stated that if I do this for you, I should receive recognition for my good act. And while it is common courtesy to do so, when we become offended it is coming at a price and is not pure in motivation. (Please note that I am not writing this with a critical spirit, for we have all been there and continue to find myself offended from time to time)
However, maybe this is what Jesus was warning against in Matthew 6:3 when he told the crowds not to let their left hand know what their right hand was doing – unlike the hypocrites. He recognized that the Pharisees did not do good works for the glory of God, but in order to receive the praise of men. And in a way, through their actions, they were indebting others to themselves by demanding gratitude and drawing attention to themselves.
So what is the answer?
For the Glory of God – Within our heart, we should be primarily motivated for doing good works because we are doing it out of our love for God, not for the recognition of others. Colossians 3:23 states, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” It is very easy to get caught in a performance trap. When we receive the praise of others our heads get big. When we receive the criticism of others our spirits are trampled upon. This does not mean that our hearts should be stone and we do whatever we want, but that we should be moved by the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. He is the standard and the reason for why we love, serve, and put others first. It is for His Glory alone and we recognize that despite what happens that He sees our actions and heart.
Focus on the WHY – By our old sinful nature, we default to taking care of ourselves. Paul instead encourages us to not look inward, but look outward to the needs of others. When we do good works for others, we should ask WHY we are doing it. When we open the door for another, we do so because we see their hands are full and they might need the help. When we let someone ahead of us in line, we recognize that they only have a few items and give them the benefit of the doubt that there is a reason they are in a hurry. When we pitch in to do an extra chore around the house, we know that our spouse is a little stressed with everything they have going on at work and want to alleviate the pressure. Sure, our hands may be full, we may be running around late, or work is stressing us out, but we realize that we are not the only ones.
Leave the card blank – Though there are times when it is appropriate to let an individual know that they have our specific support, more often than naught, we enjoy getting the recognition. Consider whether you would still complete the action if no one knew – then do it! Make it a game to see if you can get away with a random act of kindness with no one being the wiser. We have all been in a situation where someone has done something kind for us. How do we usually feel afterwards? That we need to repay the favor. Imagine the freedom that you give the individual when they do not know the “who” and you simply sign “A Gift out of Christian Love”.
Remember that if we are truly looking out for the interest of others, would we want them to be indebted to us or would we want them to be free to serve and minister to others.