What’s in it for me?
Maybe you’ve never actually said those words aloud, but just maybe the question has crossed your mind when you’ve been asked to do something for someone. I know that I’ve allowed the question to bounce around my mind more than a time or two when asked to give of my time, money, and effort. None of us want to feel taken advantage of in a world where opportunists are rampant and agenda driven.
We all want to feel appreciated, valued, and respected. However, I’ve been trying to reframe my thinking and change the internal dialogue. I’ve found that it’s more productive to ask myself why or why shouldn’t I do a particular thing. After all, we can all do things that look good. For example, we can go feed the hungry, visit the homeless shelters, and give to countless charities for all the wrong reasons. What motivates us to do the things we do is important. When we examine our motives, we can make sure that we’re properly aligned with our God given purpose.
My dear cousin, Audrey, worked tirelessly to find out about our family history. She discovered that our descendent, Frank Garrett Hinton, escaped slavery from a plantation in Kentucky to become a soldier in the 19th Heavy Artillery Unit of the Civil War. When my family and I visited the memorial and saw his name listed on the African American Civil War Memorial, tears rolled down my face. Frank, like so many others, risked his life for freedom. I’m sure that he hoped that he’d be free, but I’m also confident that he wasn’t only willing to die for his own freedom, but for many generations to come. He didn’t only think about himself but what was at stake for others.
Most of us have decisions to make that are much less grave and risky than those like Frank Garrett. We don’t have to choose between slavery and fighting for freedom. We may be asked to check on someone who is sick, or give to someone who needs resources. When we’re asked for assistance, our first reaction shouldn’t be figuring out how we can benefit if we give. Often times, people who need the most are unable to give back in a tangible way.
We also shouldn’t do things for others to be seen. When we give, I believe it should be done without giving “props” to ourselves. Matthew 6:3-4 says, “But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” In other words, if we give to be seen, we’ve already received our reward.
When we give out of love and a pure heart, we don’t have to worry about what’s in it for us. We always gain because the love of God fills us, replenishes us and allows us to keep giving. As Christians, we understand that we are vessels of God’s love, peace, joy, goodness, patience, kindness, self-control, gentleness and faithfulness (Galatians 5:22-23).
If we are in position where we need finances, time, or anything else from someone, we have a responsibility to never take advantage of a person’s willingness to help. It’s very destructive and abusive to manipulate people who want to help. We should never feel entitled to get assistance, only thankful. (Taking advantage of God’s people is very dangerous, and those who do it will reap what they sow.)
It’s easy to do good things when the benefits to us are obvious. We usually willingly do these things. However, when we’re asked to give when we don’t see what’s in it for us, it can be more difficult. That’s when we need to pray and push past our flesh. Prayer will help us to know if it’s something that God wants us to do, and meditating on His Word will help us to quiet the selfish ways that all of us sometimes have. We can then give in love without wondering what’s in it for us.