Food stamps and a bad attitude

I have often used the following example to talk about motives and actions in the Christian life.

Let’s say that person A and person B are going to feed the hungry at a local shelter. Person A doesn’t announce it or update her Facebook status or Tweet it. Person A just goes and feeds the hungry. Person A also does not take pictures at the shelter and post them. Person B tweets, updates, and clicks all over the place and tells his friends about the experience.

Person A and Person B are ministering for vastly different reasons. We might even say that one got their reward here and now, and the other will get their reward later. Here, however, is the more important idea: the hungry were getting fed.

You see, I have had more than one person in my life say something like:  “I’m not going to do _________ until I can do it with a clear conscience, mind, heart, whatever…”  One young man said that about going to a worship service. “I’m not going to church until I can do it without be a hypocrite.” One of his friends said to me, “In a way that’s sort of noble, isn’t it?” I told him that I thought it was ill-informed.

There is never going to be a time when we have truly pure motives. At least that’s my opinion. Besides, there is a down side to living that reality out.

If I wait until my heart or attitude is right there will be massive weight loss happening because no one would be getting fed. I can be so conflicted. I might help someone without any fanfare. The only person that knows I helped is the person I helped. Then, when they are not as thankful as I think they should be, I’m disappointed.

If I am going to do things in secret, then people won’t know what a good guy I am and I have to suck it up when people say that I never do anything for anybody. That is not the kind of humility I want. I want the opportunity to say humble things more than I want the opportunity to be humble.

The plus side is that I learn a lot about myself when this happens. In fact, not doing these things keeps me from learning anything about my spiritual life or the places in which I need to grow.

So where is this all going? I took a guy to get his food stamps. He was desperate. He said he needed to get to the Department of Social Services to get food for him and his kid (this put me on edge because I was sure he was playing me). Anyway, I said yes. It was a horrible experience for me. I did nothing to build a relationship with him. I was short with him. I was impatient. I bought him lunch. I questioned him about whether he really knew where he was going.

There was a running commentary in my head every time he shared his story about his girlfriend, his child, her work ethic, and on and on. My commentary did not stop for the whole 2.5 hours.

So I tweeted:

Twitter Pic@GerberDave Doing a good deed and having a rotten attitude about it should make me think, right?

To which a friend of my replied:

Twitter Pic Terry@TerryClees @GerberDave isn’t it better than just not doing the good deed?

I hate it when examples I’ve used come back to bite me in the butt.

Then I replied:

Twitter Pic@GerberDave @TerryClees Yes. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t grow beyond wanting to kick the guy out of my car.

My attitude caused me to miss the entire point. The point of the trip was to help this guy get his welfare assistance. He got his assistance. Mission accomplished.

However, this whole ordeal revealed that I need work on my attitude and that’s the point I need to learn. If I didn’t take that guy to his appointment, I would have never recognized my need for an attitude adjustment.

Lessons learned:

  1. Regardless of our internal dialog or hidden/imperfect motives we need to serve/attend/help to learn where we need to grow.  I needed to take him to the DHS as much as he needed to be taken to the DHS. I learned something about myself.
  2. My attitude can never improve if I don’t know I need an attitude adjustment. Believe me, I need an adjustment.
  3. My motives will never be purified if I don’t do things that reveal my need. You can’t grow if you don’t know.
  4. Growing as a person involves growing pains. It isn’t easy realizing that I’m not as generous and kind as I think I am.