Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What is Our Motivation for Making a Difference in the World?

We are coming to the end of our summer blitz at the FUMC youth ministry. We have had two major mission camps and one church camp. Sunday morning during Sunday School, we talked about two types of mission projects. Hypothetically we said that we were going to do the exact same good deed for two different people. The first person would be grateful and excited about the work we were doing and the second could care less and would show very little interest in what we were there to do. So we made a chart with each job on one side and asked the students to tell how they would feel. So here is what we decided.
A grateful person would make them feel...
  • Like they had done something good for someone
  • Like their time had been well-spent
  • Happy

An ungrateful person would make them feel...
  • Like they had wasted their time
  • Like the good they had done in the world didn't matter
  • Angry
  • Frustrated

Three years ago, I got to go to New Orleans with a group of people from our church. We spent 4 1/2 days working on houses that had been ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. Many of us went down there with the expectation that we would meet grateful people who were glad we had traveled over 400 miles over the course of 8 hours and brought all kinds of tools with us so that we could help them out. Well, in hour week of work at two different houses, we never met either home owner. We worked strictly with UMCOR, and our contacts there who had purchased materials and coordinated the work done at each site.

While there are a myriad of circumstances that may have prevented the homeowners from dropping by to say "thank you", we left feeling like the last set of bullet points. So in our Sunday School lesson, we looked at the story of the Good Samaritan from Luke 10:25-37. In that story, there is no mention of the victim's gratitude towards the Good Samaritan. The assistance that the Samaritan provides is not conditional on the gratitude of the person in need. So if this is our model, what is our motivation for doing good things in the world? Do we help others because we truly want to serve God regardless of the end result? Or are we motivated by a feel-good emotion when someone cries in desperate gratitude because we were able to come in on a white horse and save the day? What are your thoughts on the things that we do in the world to make a positive difference?

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