THE DARK SIDE OF SERVICE
I learned this phrase in the Eighth Grade at St. Francis Xavier School in Vincennes, Indiana in 1951. It comes from the Baltimore Catechism and it is the lynchpin (cornerstone) of all of my spirituality. It answers the question, why are you here? The answer seems rather stoic and mundane but it packs a wallop of a punch. The answer is, “The purpose of life is to know, love, and serve God in this life and be happy with God in the next.” I am no theologian but more of a practitioner of spiritual applications, but I wrote forty-five books based on this theme.
In this blog, I will limit my remarks to serving God in this life. One of the most striking lessons from the New Testament is the admonition of Christ to love one another as I have loved you. I still try to love God with all my heart and soul and strength and my neighbor as myself, but keep coming up short. I get to 50% sometimes, to use an analogy of filling up my glass with God’s energy. Most of the time, I say the words but do not do the words as I think Christ would have me do. To me, that is why I am sinful, not that I go around committing major sins all day long, but because I can’t sustain love except in waves, sometimes good and sometimes very weak. This brings me to looking at the dark side of service. By dark, I do not mean sinful or even evil, but rather weak and prone to do that which I say I will not do. Dark service is the realization that not all people play with a full deck of cards and some people we consider friends will manipulate us to their own desires in the name of service.
FIVE CAVEATS OF SERVICE
- Those who wish to follow Christ should not be gullible. We help people out when we should not do so. A good example is a hitchhiker on the side of the road. Remember the parable of the good neighbor? Priests, High Ranking Politicians all pass by this person hurt on the road. Christ tells of a foreigner that did not even know the victim on the road who helped him, even to paying his bills. If you are a young, unmarried woman, I would not advise you to stop and help anyone you do not know. That is dangerous. They could be posing as hurt just to play on your sympathies. If service to others puts you in danger, don’t do it.
- Not everyone is a good and honorable person. Be care whom you help. If you know your neighbor or your neighbor knows them, that is one thing. Be suspicious of others until you know their motives. Caveat Christor. Don’t help those who will eventually harm you, even if Scriptures tells us to do so.
- Be on guard against manipulators. You feel sorry for someone so you volunteer to babysit. This becomes the beginning of people taking advantage of you because you won’t say no. Say NO.
- Don’t help people by yourself. Do so as part of a community of faith. Being with others will mean you will be less likely to fall for false teachers.
- Don’t volunteer for everything, anytime, everywhere. You will burn yourself out if you don’t pace yourself. This might be the biggest temptation of new Church members. Your zeal will kill you if you don’t learn to say no. Rule of Thumb: new Christians are like novices. They need lots of hand-holding and less direct work. To volunteer for everything may mean you lose your desire to be of service.
Be care of service to others. It can kill you.