Embracing a double standard
Earle D. Treptow
“I would have been happy to help, but no one ever bothered to ask me.” Comments like that illustrate the importance of the personal touch in encouraging people to serve.
People desire to serve in important ways, to help with tasks that fit their talents, experiences, and resources. If no one takes the time to approach them directly with a request for assistance, they conclude that their help isn’t needed or the project isn’t important.
Some respond to that reality by longing for the good old days, when an individual could count on others to serve without being asked. There was no need to approach people, on a one-on-one basis, to ask them to help. People saw a need and acted. In fact, going directly to a person to ask for assistance may have been considered an insult.
Maybe that was the case at one time. Maybe. We sometimes portray the past idealistically. Longing for the good old days does not help us at all. We end up frustrated with others and complaining about them.
We would be wise to let the good old days be the good old days and choose to work within the current reality. People want to be asked to help, no matter how obvious the need may seem to us. So we ask. If, in humility, we consider others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3), making a personal request will not seem like a stretch. If we charitably assume that they are already using their God-given resources and abilities in many ways, asking them personally to help in another way seems like the right thing to do.
The old self is quick to draw a conclusion about this. “If I’m supposed to ask others personally to help, then people ought to do the same for me. If they don’t, they are not showing the respect God tells them to demonstrate, so I don’t have to help, and I shouldn’t.” The old self has it all wrong, because she thinks only about one person: herself.
The new self thinks about it differently. She reflects on how the Lord chose to operate.
He did not wait for sinners to ask him to help. He entered this world uninvited by human beings and opted to live and die on their behalf to rescue them from everlasting punishment. The individual that the Holy Spirit brought to faith through the gospel, without her asking, no longer wants to insist that people must ask her to help. Instead, she desires to imitate God in eagerly serving others.
We need not wait until someone personally asks us to serve. In fact, we must not, because our brother Jesus is always asking us to serve, wherever we find ourselves—at work, at school, in the neighborhood, or at church. In the needs that surround us in our callings in life, none other than the Savior himself is asking, “Please help.” The Savior asks us to be a blessing to others. He asks us to pray for them and to assist them with the resources he has put at our disposal.
We are to go out of our way to ask others to help, and yet we are to help others without waiting to be asked. That seems like a double standard, which we have been taught to avoid as unfair and onerous. In this case, however, we embrace the double standard. It’s what our Savior personally asks us to do.
Contributing editor Earle Treptow, a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin, is a member at Christ Alone, Mequon, Wisconsin.
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Author: Earle D. Treptow
Volume 106, Number 5
Issue: May 2019
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