Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions Are You Selfishly Serving Others? (It's Not an Oxymoron)

Are You Selfishly Serving Others? (It's Not an Oxymoron)

The gospel is not only the foundation for our service; it also radically purifies our motivation for service. In fact, serving others for reasons other than the gospel actually doesn’t make a lot of sense because of the philosophical contradictions beneath the surface.

Take, for example, the predominant worldview of Western culture today—the worldview of evolutionary process. In this thinking, the innate strengths and weaknesses of mankind best dictate what or who survives. So, anytime help is extended to someone who is weak, this attacks the premise behind what is naturally best for mankind.

Any time a weak child or helpless person is served, the evolutionary worldview would maintain that humanity is assaulted because the weak are given an illogical, unnatural opportunity for extended survival. If it is really best for the weak to die so the shallow end of the gene pool can be cleared away, as evolutionary theory asserts, then serving others is hypocritical.

The human heart is immensely complex and deceitful. Therefore, a plethora of other motivations can claim to motivate our desire for service. In an altruistic society like ours that values volunteerism, for example, people (even believers) serve others for all kinds of reasons void of gospel motivation.

Some of us are motivated to serve because we value compassion. We see the terrible struggle someone else is facing, and it moves us emotionally. We imagine how life would be if we were in the same situation, so we do something out of sympathy, out of empathy. This sounds good at first. After all, Jesus once saw the harassed and helpless crowds and was moved by them (Matt. 9:36).

It is true that compassion often serves as a great starting point for service, but unless compassion is connected with something deeper, it is unsustainable. Because of our sinfulness, causes that appeal to compassion lose their impact as our senses are slowly numbed to the pain around us.

Do you remember the first time you saw the commercial with the starving children? Do you still respond with the same sinking feeling in your gut? Compassion that’s only connected to human emotion quickly wanes in impact. Only compassion firmly connected to the gospel is sustainable.

Compassion linked to the gospel is compassion that goes beyond merely observing hurting people; it sees hurting people and realizes that Jesus loves them furiously. Ultimately, then, it’s not our compassion but the compassion of Jesus that fuels and sustains our desire to act on another’s behalf. When we remember how gracious and compassionate Christ has been to us, our compassion is as sustainable as our remembrance of the gospel.

Without Him, compassion will slowly but surely devolve into a weepy moment that we forget as soon as the commercial ends or someone breaks the mood with a funny joke.

Some are motivated to serve because of guilt. Many people feel guilty for their overindulgent lifestyles, so to alleviate the guilt … they serve. She thinks, “Buying seven Coach purses is fine as long as I donate my old ones to the homeless shelter downtown.” Dropping some clothes in the donation bag numbs a person’s self-awareness of his or her materialism.