Serving
Tony Myles

Tony Myles is a youth ministry veteran, author, speaker, volunteer youth worker and lead pastor of Connection Church in Medina, Ohio... and he really likes smoothies.

I’m not at ease serving certain people.

It’s an ugly confession, but I’m sure you know what I mean. There are likely a few individuals in your life you’re not comfortable bending over backwards for. Perhaps you were once taken advantage of by them or someone they remind you of.

In contrast, you probably have some favorite situations or people that make serving a “no-brainer.” Maybe it’s the mission trip you keep doing every year, or the old lady in your church who gives you ginger ale after you take care of her yard. Each offers an inherent joy and fulfillment that keeps you coming back for more.

So what?

That’s a legitimate question, by the way. Is serving all about your preferences? Are you willing to grow into something deeper?

This is where Scripture comes in.

One of the greatest things about the Bible is also its most annoying attributes: it speaks truth.

It’s like a bumper or flipper on a pinball machine, propelling us back into play when we start heading toward a side chute or straight down the center drain. God’s words will even ricochet you back into a direction you wouldn’t naturally travel:

  • “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)
  • “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27-28)
  • “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8)
  • “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27)
  • “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:15-17)

That last verse hit me hard this week.

After one of our morning church services, two first-time guests asked to talk with me. Within moments, they’d shared how they’d been evicted and needed me to give them money to pay for a local hotel room. Their story could have been legitimate, or it could have been a scam. I honestly didn’t know.

It was one of those situations I don’t like being in.

Thankfully, our church networks with a ministry called Love INC that partners local churches together to resource needs. This includes performing a background check on prospective clients, making sure that someone doesn’t go from church to church to work an angle.

When I suggested we contact this ministry, the two individuals shut the idea down and continued to prod me to find someone in the church who would give them money.

If I can be honest, I don’t know what to do in such moments. I strained to hear some direction from the Holy Spirit, knowing that Bible verses like the ones above demand that I take care of people in need. Still, I wondered why instead I had the sense He was telling me to pause and gently redirect them back to Love INC.

After their final refusal, I still didn’t know what to do. I ended up praying with them and sending them off on their way. Again, I felt like I was violating a clear mandate from Scripture. It was as if I was shaking the pinball machine in a way it wasn’t meant to be shaken, and was on the verge of an alarm going off before the words “TILT” appeared.

On my drive home, I called my friend Mike who oversees Love INC locally. He began to share about how relying on their organization is as biblical a concept as the systems the early Church developed to care for people. I was thankful for the Bible’s truth, yet again.

“As much as God calls us to take care of anyone in need, He also commands leaders to be responsible in how they do it,” Mike said. “It’s all throughout the Epistles. You’re managing the ‘widow’s mite’ that Jesus said she struggled to give in faith to the church. It’s completely appropriate that you have a system in place so you don’t carelessly give away what God’s entrusted you with.”

So…that’s the end of the story. Literally, that’s it. I don’t know what happened next to those two people. Maybe they drove down the street to continue their “scam.” Perhaps it wasn’t a scam at all and they’re now out on their own.

I wish I had a nice bow to tie it all together for you.

Instead, we have the Bible and the Spirit who helps us apply its truths into our lives.

I’d love to hear your wisdom on this. Please share your insights, and feel free to correct me if you think I’m off base.

Thank you for loving students!

Tony

@tonymyles

2 COMMENTS

  • Christian says:

    I know what you are/were feeling.
    But it is hard to believe their need is legitimate if they were not willing to go through the organization you partner with. Either it was not legitimate or it was legitimate and they were being lazy instead of doing a little bit of work to get the help they needed.

  • Scott says:

    Working for The Salvation Army we get many folk looking for handouts. Most of the time we’re happy to just give and give. Sometimes though there’s the “repeat offenders.” People who are always asking for a little more when you see them. Word on the street sometimes is that they’re addicts or whatnot and you’re never sure if they need a few dollars for food or something else.

    There’s the one time though that I was asked specifically if I could buy a pack of hotdogs for this man. Well, I bought hotdogs and some pillsbury croissants and explained that he could roll them up inside and bake them like that.

    Whether he did or didn’t, I don’t know. But there’s some kind of great joy in eating dogs in a blanket. I believe God wants us to lavish love/help onto others. Sounds to me like this organization would have left the couple with much more than a night of comfort. Now that’s a challenge – to receive a greater gift than what you think you want.

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