Is service something you do or is it something you receive? At its simplest the answer is yes. It is possible to do acts of service and it is imaginable to be the receiving end of an act of service. When push comes to shove most of us believe that it is more honorable to be on the side of doing. Acts 20:35 has become a rallying cry of sorts, “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”
The result of this is we are not always comfortable the idea of service being something we receive.
In my line of work I deal with this regularly. People come to DOOR expecting to “do work.” Don’t misunderstand me everyone gets to do lots of work, but not all the time. Service also includes listening to another person’s story or just sitting quietly on a park bench with someone watching the clouds float by.
I realize that sitting and listening stories do not make for great service trip reports. That is too bad. Folks back home want to know what you accomplished. How many people did you feed? What did you build? Who all heard about Jesus for the first time? These are all important questions, but they should not be the only questions.
Did you take time to hang out and shoot the breeze? Did you hear faith stories that challenged your understanding of God? What stereotypes were broken because of the encounters you had with other people?
Someone once told me that Jesus spent 30 years just hanging out before he started doing acts of service.
Our good intentions, our need to fix problems, our willingness to act first and learn second are not always well received by those who are on the other end.
I am in no way suggesting that acts of service are inappropriate. But taking time to know and understand the recipients of our good intentions must be the first step. I suspect that doing this will have a dramatic impact on how we go about serving others. When this takes place Acts 20:35 will ring true at a deeper level, “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”