I am fascinated by the “Why” of things. The “What” is usually more important, but it is also usually self-evident. I don’t need people to explain the “What” in most instances. I ask my children, “What are you doing?” all the time, but usually I know already — either nothing at all, something that makes no sense, or something that is taking the place of what they are supposed to be doing. In other words, it’s a “Why” question in disguise.
The “Why” is an insight into our values system. The reason we give for what we are doing tells us who we are and what we are about. For example, assume I ask you, an ordinary Christian, why you are doing what you are doing — level of participation, moral choices, parenting decisions, whatever. Consider the answers supplied below and what they may be saying about you.
“I don’t have the time” vs. “It’s a priority.”
There are no “time management” problems; there are only “priorities” problems. Everyone on this planet has exactly the same amount of time every day (with the obvious exceptions of those who are born or who die on that day). If you don’t have time for church attendance, or personal Bible study, or hospitality, or any other duty we might name, it is because we have not made it a priority. That’s not to say that emergencies do not cause mundane things to jump up our priorities list — the “ox in the ditch” situation. But as a rule, we make time for the important things in life. The question is, what is really important?
“I’m not comfortable” vs. “I’m needed.”
Do we go where we feel like going, or do we go where we need to go? In secular life, we will habitually underachieve by simply doing what feels “comfortable.” Why should we expect service to Christ to be any different? And when did we get the notion that serving Jesus would always be comfortable? I can point you to numerous passages that teach precisely the opposite (Matthew 5:10; Luke 9:23; 1 Corinthians 9:27; etc.). No, we choose our task in the body of Christ based on what the body needs, not what the individual member feels like doing. If the church needs you to serve as an elder or deacon, or if your neighbor needs to be taught the truth, or if a brother or sister needs encouragement, you should be willing and eager to step up, regardless of your comfort level.
“It’s best for me” vs. “It’s best for the church.”
Everyone has personal issues that take them away from church activities. But at some point it becomes selfish to prioritize our own things over the things of the body and the Lord. After all, isn’t “what’s best for me” a different way of saying “what I want to do”? Being “subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (Ephesians 5:21) seems to be incompatible with that sort of attitude. When we become a discouragement to our brethren, when we become a drag on the effectiveness of the body, it becomes time for us to reevaluate what we think is the “best” way for us to make decisions.
“I have nothing to offer” vs. “I am offering what I have.”
No one has ‘nothing” to offer. Let’s get that straight right now. Anyone not in a coma can offer their attention, their love, their encouragement, their prayers, and at least a certain amount of their participation. “That doesn’t seem like much,” you may say. I say in response, “So if you are not even offering that, what does that say?” The widow’s two mites (Luke 21:1-4) accomplished more for the cause of righteousness than anything else that was given to God on that day in the temple. Imagine the tragedy that would have been if she had not been willing to offer what she had.
“It’s not required” vs. “I’d feel guilty if I didn’t.”
The conversations I hate more than any are those centered around what a Christian is “required” to do — Bible study attendance, the Lord’s Day contribution, encouragement of the sick and inattentive, etc. If you are determined to do what is “required” and no more, you have “neglected the weightier provisions of the law” (Matthew 23:23). The godly examples in the text are of those who sought opportunities to do more (2 Corinthians 8:3-5) — not those who did as little as was permitted, not even those who were willing to serve when called on.
Here’s an exercise for your spirit. Imagine a situation in which you are being asked to participate with the saints. Then plug it into the above scenarios and ask yourself which of the responses is most likely to be yours. Answer honestly. Then act accordingly.