My pastor and I are are co-teaching a class on the Spiritual Disciplines during our Wednesday night service. We are four weeks into this series and it has already been very challenging. This past week I taught on the spiritual discipline of service. It impacted me so much that I thought I would post an excerpt here. The following points come directly from Richard Foster in his book, “Celebration of Discipline.” These are some ways that you can tell the difference between self-righteous service and true service. By the way, if you have not read this book I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy. You will be challenged!
1. Self-righteous service comes through human effort; true service comes from a relationship with the divine Other deep inside.
True service expends energy, but it is not the frantic energy that so often characterizes much of our service.
2. Self-righteous service is impressed with the “big deal”; true service finds it almost impossible to distinguish the small from the large service.
Self righteous service loves to serve when the project is BIG. However, true servants often go unnoticed since they serve when people may not be looking.
3. Self-righteous service requires external rewards; true service rests contented in hiddenness.
Self-righteous service needs to know that it will be appreciated for its efforts. The thought might come to mind, “There better be a thank you card in the mail.”
4. Self-righteous service is highly concerned about results; true service is free of the need to calculate results.
The self righteous servant eagerly awaits to see if their service will be reciprocated. This person operates by the motto, “I will do for you if you do for me.” If this does not happen, the person will often become bitter.
5. Self-righteous service picks and chooses whom to serve; true service is indiscriminate in its ministry.
Those with great status are served because of what can be gained as a result. The poor may even be served because the service can promote a humble perception which would benefit the one rendering the service.
6. Self-righteous service is affected by moods and whims; true service ministers simply and faithfully because there is a need.
Self righteous service only serves when it is, “moved by the Spirit.”
7. Self-righteous service is temporary; true service is a lifestyle.
8. Self-righteous service is insensitive; true service can withhold the service as freely as perform it.
This is often cloaked in the famous religious words, “This is my spiritual gift! You are not going to let me use the gifts that God has given me to serve?”
9. Self-righteous service fractures community; true service builds community.
Richard Foster says, “Once all of the religious trappings are removed from self-righteous service, you can see that it centers on the individual. It puts others into its debt and can become one of the most subtle forms of manipulation.”
These points challenge me to re-evaluate how I am serving. I want to serve out of a pure heart and not because I want something in return. What about you? Which one of these are you challenged by?