Our culture’s growing sense of self-reliance has permeated the church to the degree that Christians are often hesitant to accept acts of service from other Christians. Whether it’s a fear of inconveniencing others, pride, or some other heart issue, refusing to be blessed by God through others has some serious consequences. Here are a few.
Builds a Mindset of Selfishness
When sharing the gospel, the more you are rejected the more you withdraw and hesitate to continue. The same principle applies to service – the more you refuse others’ offers to help the less they feel comfortable offering. After a while, a status quo of not serving others is developed which, in turn, can lead to selfishness because if experience trains you to stop thinking about others then you will naturally only think of yourself. Take this to a level where this mindset flows through the whole church body and you have yourself a church that is violating that which it is created to do: to worship God corporately. Paul makes it clear that the way we are to be of the “same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” is to follow the example of Christ and look out for others to the point that you “regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Phil. 2:2-7). That’s hard to do when you refuse to let anyone look out for you.
Creates a Culture of Individualism Rather than Family
If we succeed in building a mindset that focuses only on ourselves, then we hinder the reason for the creation of the local church. In the end, we are all responsible for our own commitments to Christ, but the Lord, in understanding our needs and frailties, gave us an incredibly wise and gracious gift in the local church. From the top down, every aspect of Christianity is connected to the local church which is to be the HQ of all spirituality. What makes the gears of this amazing machine run smoothly is the sense of family exhibited through the One Another’s and deep-seated care that leads us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). If you circle out to the context of this verse, you will see that Paul is talking about the body and the members of it. Keep going and you read phrases like “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love” (v.9a), “contributing to the needs of the saints” (v.13), “Be of the same mind” (v.16), and so on. In other words, you can’t be a true church if you’re not in each others’ lives and you can’t be in each others’ lives if you refuse any attempt to be served.
As a pastor, I am often asked by new members and visitors if there are opportunities to serve in the church. What they are looking for is some sort of formal service such as folding bulletins or greeting visitors. While these acts of service are important and helpful, the more important acts of service are those of Mary rather than Martha. When we are more focused on the formal than the One Another’s there is a problem of misplaced priorities and a kink in our relationships which can breed a culture of self-sufficiency which is dangerous and leads to a multitude of other sins. Iron sharpens iron not itself (Prov. 27:17).
Focuses on Others Above Christ
When I counsel married couples, it is common to see that each spouse finds it challenging to fulfill his or her biblical responsibilities in marriage because the other responds in a way that makes them each shy away from their God-given roles. This is a natural response and is akin to what we are talking about here: when our gracious advances are rejected we ungraciously retreat. However, what I tell these couples I will tell you – we are ultimately serving Christ and not others. Other people are secondary; they are an added bonus when we do the right thing. In other words, still do what you are commanded to do regardless of what the other person says or does in response because it’s more about Christ than them. When we tell people that we don’t need that prayer, hot meal, or word of encouragement we are inadvertently telling them that our estimation of what we think we need or don’t need is more important than what Christ commands.
Robs Others of Heavenly Reward
When it comes to material gain, most of us would not hesitate to help someone out if doing a good deed for us would mean a promotion at work, extra credit at school, or a badge on a Boy Scout sash. But it is easy to forget that the same principle applies, though to an incomparably greater degree, when it comes to amassing reward in heaven. Our Lord tells us to focus on treasures in heaven rather than earthly treasure (Mt. 6:19-22) and these heavenly rewards are earned, in part, through serving others. When you deny others an opportunity to serve you deny them the opportunity to add to their eternal riches. Who are you to do that?
We need to honor God by serving others and that includes allowing others to serve us. Like any rusted part, if you have developed a habit of not letting others serve you, starting out may seem difficult and awkward at first but give it a few go’s and pretty soon it’ll work like new. And if I may take this analogy a bit further, the oil to your rust is going back and figuring out why you don’t let others serve you in the first place. If it’s sin, repent. If it’s culture (church, family, or otherwise), prioritize God’s Word. If it turns out you don’t let others serve you because you hate serving others then you might want to reevaluate who is first in your life; is it God and others or self?
Regardless of the situation, we need to maximize the efficacy of the church by serving and being served.