To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Arloa Sutter in The Invisible: What the Church Can Do to Find and Serve the Least of These taught me the value of knowing the people you serve. And it’s not just understanding them as people and individuals—it’s knowing by experience.
Sometimes new nonprofits flop because the staff, volunteers, and sometimes even the board maintain distance from the people who need them the most. Living in the neighborhood, immersing yourself in that community’s struggles, and being part of the solution is a powerful position to change the world in the life of a person.
I’m not the one to talk. I’ve served on boards in another state, far from the work being done. I’ve tried to help nonprofits that only wanted my dollar bills, not my time or talent. Sometimes an organization wants my help because I’d bring a “fresh perspective” and some outside-the-group-think thinking. Yet, I knew that there was a part of me that just didn’t quite get it. I couldn’t connect with the clients, so my time and talent were not as useful to the organization.
The passage above can provide insight into the need for humility, grace, and God’s acceptance of all people no matter their list of sins. Re-reading it with an eye for motivation means that I have to read it knowing that I can be the Pharisee because of my motivation. It’s the internal intention that shows itself in humility and grace, or the lack thereof.
No matter your role or location, check your motivation. Do you serve for the luxury of being associated with an organization? Or do you have a passion for the work they do? Do you know clients, or just about the clients?
I’m not saying that everyone should quit their jobs, move, and become a client of a nonprofit. What I am encouraging is a reflection to make sure that you are not like the first man in the story that Jesus tells us. It takes humility, he says, to serve well.
Look at your motivations today. Are you the Pharisee or the tax collector? Share your thoughts on Facebook @HopelesslyHopefulBooks. https://www.facebook.com/HopelesslyHopefulBooks
© 2021, Mollie Bond. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.molliebond.org.
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