Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Deep down

"What really motivates you to help materially poor people?"

This was one of the discussion questions from the book When Helping Hurts.

I am reading it in preparation for my trip back to Ethiopia this summer.I am only about a third of the way through it, but already I have learned so much. For example, how important it is to realize that poverty runs much deeper than material possessions, and why that's important in how we all relate to each other.

But this question hit me like a ton of bricks. Because it is not an easy thing to look deep inside your own heart. After all, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure." (Jeremiah 17:9) But this question forced me to.

On one level, I thought I had a pretty good answer. God commands us to. His heart is for the poor and the oppressed. Doing good for "the least of these" is ministering to Jesus himself (Matthew 25). If I help the materially poor, I am being obedient.

But then I thought, why? Why do I want to be obedient? And I have to admit that way too often, it's because I want to be worthy of God's favor. I want him to be happy with me. And yes, I want to make sure I am on the reward side of these Scriptures instead of the curse side.

And there it is - selfishness. Right in the middle of my obedience, I am confronted with a motivation that has to do with what's good for me. No wonder the Bible says that all our righteousness is like filthy rags. If I am being obedient for the reward, that's not a heart for the poor. It's a heart for me.

And so I have to fall back on God's grace. His infinite, wonderful, indescribable grace. I have to pray and pray a lot. I have to ask him to fill me with his Holy Spirit, so that he will place his heart inside me. To know the mystery of his resurrection power that allows me to love like he does, not because it's good for me, but because it brings him glory.

And so, please pray for me. Pray for me as I prepare to lead another team back to Ethiopia. Pray for me as I live my life, as I go to work tomorrow. Pray that God will fill me with his love, so that deep down my heart will be his. I don't want to be the guy who obeys because God will bless me. Because if I do, my efforts to help will just radiate self sufficiency and continue the cycle of poverty.

Lord, deliver me from that. Make it all about you, and not at all about me. Please.

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