While doing yard work today, a young man approached me asking for a ride to a location some miles away. He shared a story of needing to meet his son, who he hadn’t seen for six months, and that he had been walking for the last five hours to get where he needed to go.
Before saying yes, I spent a minute trying to ascertain a few things: whether I had the time to drive about a half an hour; if I would be safe; if the man was trustworthy. You get the point. I was trying assess the risk of giving.
It turns out that all my questions were answered to the affirmative. I enjoyed my conversation with the young guy while we were driving, and I hope that he had a successful meeting with his son.
Back home, my wife and I spent a few minutes talking about the process of making the decision to help out. It reminded me of ways I have helped prepare students for serving alongside homeless people. For those of us who do choose to be involved with others through acts of service, a wrestling match over “who is worthy” of our service is an almost universal experience.
Whether we are aware of it or not, many of us want assurances before we give of ourselves. For example, we may want to know that people will appreciate us, that they will use our gifts responsibly, that they are industrious and got into their hardship by honest mistakes. In short, we want someone to somehow “deserve” help. We each have certain criteria by which we judge this.
As I have conducted research, it seems that any reason can be justified, but not all reasons are biblical. This concerns me because it implies that many people are either ignorant of, or unwilling to engage what the Bible says about giving to others.
I would submit that Jesus held two criteria. It seems he was interested only in whether or not someone was aware of their need and if they were willing to ask for help. For me, encountering this has been a challenge. Incorporating this into my own life has changed my perspective from helping others to valuing them.
What are your criteria for serving others?