We are taught in the scriptures that charity never faileth, but the truth is, sometimes we faileth…big time. As members of the Church, we know the importance of charity and service. So many lessons, talks, and scriptures are dedicated to the topic. In fact, many of the talks we listened to in conference last weekend focused on serving and loving those around us. Sometimes, though, many of us find actually actively performing acts of service to be difficult, uncomfortable, and tiring.
C.S. Lewis and What He Had to Say About the Matter
C.S. Lewis was a great Christian author. His literary works are very quotable and promote gospel teachings. His story is rather remarkable, in that before he converted to Christianity, he was a staunch Atheist. Going from not believing in a higher power to believing in a God who not only loves us but has allowed us to pass through this life for our benefit is a big jump. This is what makes him such a great authority figure on true conversion and turning our hearts over to God.
“Give up your self, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it…Keep back nothing.”
Lewis first resorted to atheism when his mother died of cancer when he was young. He felt betrayed that God had not healed his mother and began to believe more in rationalism. Slowly, as he made his way through life and education, he began to realize that there was a purpose to it all. He realized that faith, was in fact, rational, and he began to write about his hardships and how to be a better Christian.
Service Serves Us
In “Mere Christianity,” C.S. Lewis talks a lot about becoming new men through Christ and allowing Him to take us and make of us what He will. Lewis relates,”To become new men means losing what we now call ‘ourselves.’ Out of ourselves, into Christ, we must go.”
If we are stingy and keep things for ourselves, in the end, we will have nothing. The Lord blesses us so that we can be instruments and serve others. If we have been blessed financially, or with talents and abilities that can provide comfort to others, we must share them. We must not hide under a bushel (Luke 11:33). It is common knowledge that serving others often results in greater benefits for ourselves than the person we are serving. If we aren’t careful, we can forget this if we aren’t actively involved in service daily.
“Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours.”
One of the main areas in which we are lacking when it comes to serving our fellow man, in my opinion, is serving the poor and the needy, but there are many other ways to serve as well. When we aren’t actively looking for opportunities to serve, we will be sure to miss them. Service, especially when we have a lot going on in our own lives, is often far from our minds. Pray daily for opportunities and they will come.
Serve Those you Live With
Even if it is just a little something each day, you can make a difference with those you share a living space. Whether you live with family, or with roommates, you’ll be surprised just how much you can serve them each day. You can start by doing the dishes, making someone’s bed, or even praying for them. If you notice someone around you is having a bad day, go out and buy them their favorite treat, or ask what you can do to lighten their load.
Serve in Your Ward
If you notice that there is an individual or family that is struggling in your ward, do something about it! Don’t wait around for someone else to do it. There may be others who have a closer relationship with them, or you may feel it is the bishop’s duty to do something. Instead, fill the needs you see so that others will be free to do the same. If you feel unsure about how best to help, counsel with the bishop to see if he can give you some guidance.
This can even be turned into a fun activity and it doesn’t need to be reserved for the holidays. For family home evening, you can put together a care package for a family or individual that might be ill or in need of a little pick me up. Be thoughtful and prayerful, but most importantly, have fun!
Serve Friends and Family Outside the Church
This is a great opportunity for missionary work. Many people are immediately turned off when you try and share the gospel with them. For this reason, service can be a great way of sharing the gospel without really coming out and saying it. Smile, be a supportive friend, and be as Christlike as possible.
They will wonder why you are different. The Spirit will emanate from you if you are striving to constantly be in the service of your fellow man. Be a force for good and show them how the Church has been a safe haven for you in times of trouble.
Imagine you are leaving the grocery store. On the corner of the parking lot exit stands a ragged looking man. He holds a sign that reads “HOMELESS—Anything helps.” What do you do? Should you give him the few extra dollars you know you have in your wallet? Should you just avoid eye contact and keep driving?
We’ve all been there. We know the right answer to all those questions, but when it really comes down to it, we often don’t do what we know we should. Sometimes this might be because we think to ourselves, “Who knows what they could be using the money they get from people for.” Other variations of these thoughts we have as we try to justify ignoring the poor and homeless are, “Their own poor decisions are what got them where they are in the first place, so they aren’t my responsibility.”
None of these justifications are valid. We must do all we can do. There is a lot we don’t know about the people around us. We may not know why they are struggling or how they got to be where they are. All we can see is what is right in front of us, and that should be motivation enough to help. Help doesn’t always have to come in the form of money. We can give food, a conversation, a blanket, a Book of Mormon, and so much more.
Why Justifying is not what Christ Would Do
How can we become more Christ-like and love those who are different from us? First, as we have discussed, be charitable, and give to those in need. If possible, do it in person. It is what Christ would have done. I can assure you that Christ would never deny a homeless or needy person help. Many are suspicious that the person in need may use whatever it is that we give them to further an addiction. Truthfully, this doesn’t matter. God is the only one who knows. We should leave the judging to him.
If we choose to use our agency not to help someone when we have the means, that is on us, not them. They will be judged according to their own actions and we will be judged by ours. True service is not conditional, because Christ-like love is not conditional.
Giving to the poor does not enable them. We need to do away with this notion. If we have something to give, give it. Regardless of what we think they might use it for. Christ helped the helpless and it is our mission to be His instruments and representatives. Even if we are not set apart missionaries who wear a name-tag with His name, we agree to be His representatives when we are baptized. We have the power to be forces for good in the world.
Getting over Apprehension
I have some social anxiety that is crippling at times. Sometimes even contemplating an interaction with an individual that involves giving them money, food, or trying to help them out in some other way makes me incredibly nervous. But we do not grow if we remain in our comfort zones.
We may need to step outside what we are comfortable with to serve others but this will prove to benefit us and our characters even more than we may be blessing the lives of others with our efforts. Charity is a wonderful way to become more Christlike and to love people that are different than you.
The Second Great Commandment
The second great commandment is to love one another. This does not mean to love some and not others, but to love everyone.
Whenever I fought with my siblings when I was younger, my Dad would say in only a half-serious manner, “Jesus said love everyone!” As annoying as this was at the time, I know that the sentiment is true. The best way to love one another and is to serve others. Also, the best way to show love and appreciation to Father is by serving his children. Remember that service is more than an obligation, it is a sacred responsibility.