“How much good are you doing for other people?”
This is one of the introductory questions I ask teenagers as we start a new support group. This is a question amongst about six others that helps students “scale” how they are feeling about various aspects of life.
Really, this question seems to hit them out of left field. I love asking it because of any of these questions, this one tends to be more of a window into the soul than any of the others.
I always have students who want to project a certain image about how they have their lives together and they don’t need any help. This question seems to be an equalizer to their pretense.
While this question might seem even a little accusatory, when taken for what it is gives me a more accurate sense of what their self worth really is.
Because, if they are not doing anything good for people – they are good for no one.
And when you are good for no one – you have no hope.
One of the main things that separates humans from the beasts is their need to have purpose and value. We want to know that we have a measurable impact on the world around us. We want to be heard. We want to know we are worth something.
So on a basic human level our hope for much of anything is tied to the ways we are valued.
Yet one of the great paradoxes of this world – whether you subscribe to a higher power or not – is the way we find hope in the world around us when we pour ourselves out to help another. We are knit together in such a way to participate in the great irony of serving others to serve ourselves. And, conversely when we serve ourselves only we actually work against the very thing we were pursuing – ourselves.
I love the passage Allen brought up in his post yesterday from Genesis 12:2-3:
“I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”
You see, God chose Israel as his people not just to bless them, but to bless the world through them. They were to take this special relationship with God to the ends of the earth – brining hope to the hopeless.
As we search through the Old Testament the Israelites did the exact opposite. They used their chosen status with God to act – chosen. It was as if they neglected the very last part of the blessing and promise God gave Abram – “All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”
By the time Jesus walked the earth, Israel had become a self-centered, self loathing group of people who neglected those around them who really needed hope.
In short, they had stopped doing good for other people. And, it showed.
When Jesus came into the world he announced the way God really wanted things to be done. He reminded us how hope is found in washing the feet of you enemy. We are shown how hope is regained by pouring ourselves out for those who might not return the favor.
You see, when we do good for others we restore a piece of our own hope. And, we find ourselves doing the very work God set out to do in the first place – bring hope and blessing to the world around us. This is a beautiful paradox.
Share with us: How has serving others restored you hope in God?