When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.
-Matthew 6:3-4 (MSG)
I was talking with a friend recently who has been going through a difficult time. In the midst of exploring what care looks like, they mentioned how much of a gift it is when someone sends a simple message that doesn't require a response. Sometimes even simple questions can feel like a tough obligation to a mourning friend or someone journeying with depression, tragedy, or stress.
That little comment started me thinking about a connected theme in the lives of those who want to show love and care: We often have a need as care-giving people to have our care validated.
We want to know we're making a difference. We want a response!
As humans, our desire to impact others positively can quickly morph into an unhealthy belief in the law of reciprocity- a psychological principal that states that whenever you give, the recipient is compelled to somehow return the favor. It begins young, when most acts of care are transactional. We do things for others, knowing that they are going to be really grateful to us or reciprocate in some way, and that makes it worthwhile.
It may be as simple as a thank you, but we subtly learn to expect a response to kindness. We can even grow indignant if we don't receive it. It happens in our lives more than we may think.
Jesus wants to take us beyond this transaction as he shapes us into his character. Just like when we learn that Jesus is present with us even when we don't sense his presence, discipleship also teaches us that our outward care and actions are worth doing regardless of if we get a response or validation of the impact.
Consider this example. Some of us may choose to give to humanitarian aid efforts in the Ukraine. Once we fill out an online form and send $100 away, it's unlikely that we'll get a call from someone saying, "thank you so much for providing food for my family after fleeing the bombing in our hometown." We may get a form email marking our contribution, but we simply have to trust that our gift matters, and that we are expressing God's heart by doing the compassionate thing. The point is not for us to feel good about helping. The point is to be a helper. Like my friend, but on the opposite side of the experience, it is a gift when we learn to care for those around us, needing no affirmation whatsoever. This is our way of life now.
So let us serve our neighbors in complete freedom because God loves us, expecting nothing in return. Let us send texts and emails of encouragement with no expectations, written with nothing but the pure and selfless love of Jesus.
Let us serve our spouses, pick up after our kids, give away our money, help our coworkers, and be generous in all areas of material and immaterial-- because we are Jesus people, not because we need to know we are making a difference. It will set us free! (And Jesus says we'll get rewarded for it one day anyways, so if you're all about that payout life, there you go).
Of course, the truth is that yes, we are making a difference. Every act of love carries significance. And many times, we will experience the joy of knowing and feeling that in this life. But there is a far deeper joy when our hearts are at peace, knowing that we are so loved by God that each moment we live is an overflow of it toward others... with no response needed.
Jesus, set me free today as I love for your sake and nothing else, for you have have given me immeasurable worth.