Good Works that Pinch

Some Sunday thoughts for my Christian followers:

Do your good works ever sting? I’ve been pondering this lately as we’ve been in a particularly heavy patch of foster parenting— but this isn’t just about fostering, so read on even if you aren’t in the fostery world!

I remember hearing adults and teenagers after going on short term missions or serving underprivileged people at soup kitchens say things like “I really was the one who left blessed!” Or “helping those kids really filled my cup.” I want to ask you: is the goal of doing good works in the name of Jesus to bless you with good feelings, or is it to be obedient— even if you get nothing out of it?

You may ask, “Well, Rachel, can’t we have both?” And I’m not going to say a flat out no, but I am going to say that your motivation for doing good works actually matters, and if that motivation is just to feel good? Sorry, friend, it’s the wrong one.

After getting your motivation in the right place, it’s time to look at the question I first posed: is this gonna sting? Pinch? Heck, is it gonna punch?! When you’re in a comfortable spot financially, it isn’t going to sting to throw some cash to sponsor an orphan in Africa. When you’re driving your BMW SUV, it isn’t going pinch to buy a fast food meal for a homeless person. If you are inundated with material things, it isn’t going to make you wince to give some of those items to someone in need. Don’t get me wrong, those are all good things to do, because they benefit someone else, but as Christians, we are called to take up a cross, and if I read my Bible right, that doesn’t seem like a super easy peasy task that brings a lot of immediate joy and sparkle to our lives with little to no sacrifice.

We aren’t all blessed financially. If you are, give in that way, but check yourself if you’re only giving what doesn’t really affect you. However, what about a way that those with or without money can accomplish? Maybe it’s giving your time to help a less privileged family work on a house project. Maybe it’s giving up the idol of Instagram-worthy white carpet so you can host families in your home and practice true hospitality. Maybe it’s spending time being a true friend to someone that requires a lot of extra grace (yes, this could mean socially awkward, different from you, outside of your social circle, or even straight up annoying people). Maybe it’s realizing you have the space in your home to take in a foster child, a single parent and their child, or even your own aging parent when it would be easier to send them to a home.

As Christians, we aren’t supposed to be playing some Jesus flavored karma game where we do things for people to feel nice about ourselves and get good things in return. Listen, when it comes to fostering, co-parenting with drug addicts or violent people, being up all night with a feverish child who is not your own, and having 5,000 people in and out of your home at all hours does not fill my cup. It does not make me feel better about myself. It does not leave me more fulfilled than I was before. Plainly: sometimes it sucks, and I’m realizing that that’s okay. And I’m taking comfort in this. If I never see a single good thing in this journey while on earth, that’s alright. Jesus never promised me earthly ease and blessings. He never told me “you are gonna feel SO good about yourself if you do this.”

We may never see any tangible blessings this side of Heaven. We may never get any thanks, back pats, warm fuzzies, or accolades. In fact, we might even end up disappointed, drained, tired, exhausted, and depleted— but if our motivation is to give selflessly in Jesus’ name, for His glory (not our own), and to love others, that won’t really be a deterrent.

Give. Serve. Love. Even when it hurts—especially when it hurts.