Our church is going through a series this summer on the book of Proverbs, so I’ve been reading through that book a lot lately. Earlier this week as I was reading in chapter 21, a verse stuck out to me and kicked me in the gut:
To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.
This verse convicted me because, as a church staffer, I can easily fall prey to the notion that the work I do during the week and on Sundays is a sufficient sacrifice in serving the Lord. I give of my time. I give of my money. Shouldn’t that be enough?
I believe that much of the American church falls into this trap too – and not just paid church staff. I think we tend to think that our attendance at church, our service in ministry, and our offerings to the church body are all we need to accomplish to serve.
In America, we think more of going to church and giving to church than we do to being the church.
Do we individually help the poor? Do we reach out to our neighbors and others in our community when they need us? Do we stand up for what we believe in, even when it’s unpopular to do so? All these things are part of what we’re called to do as believers.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating a mentality of works as a means to salvation or to appease God. We’re saved by God’s grace without a doubt:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
But that very next verse reminds us of one of the reasons why God saves us:
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
And I’m not advocating a social gospel, either. There have been many who have twisted the scriptures to call for governments to take action in the place of God’s people. That’s not at all what I would want to do here.
As God’s followers we are called to be His hands and feet, and that means loving others and helping take care of them in their times of need. Instead, I think we rely on the church to do all the work, when God places people and things in our path as ways to help Him as individuals. And I think there are some innovative ways we can do just that.
For example, anytime I head to downtown Athens, not far from my hometown, I encounter homeless people asking for money. I’ve played the whole dilemma in my head for years – do I give them money to feed a drug or alcohol habit, or do I give them food? I’ve begun carrying Subway gift cards with me when I go to Athens as a way to give those homeless people an opportunity to get a healthy, convenient meal.
I know people who carry old coats in the trunks of their cars in the winter to have them ready at a moment’s notice for people in need. Another group of people minister to the homeless who live in tents on the outskirts of town. We’ve seen a tremendous movement in our community for foster care and adoption. Some of these activities have come about at the urging of a local church, but others stem from the overflow of faithful hearts.
After reading Proverbs 21:3, I want to be better at serving spontaneously. I want to reflect the heart of Jesus outside the walls of my church at a time when people need to see Him the most. I hope this verse will inspire you too.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.com / Antlio