The toddler appeared healthy, showing no sign of any pain. As he followed the woman I assumed was his mother, he was whining, “Carry me!” in the most pathetic voice. She paused to assure him that he was capable of walking himself and on they went into the grocery store. When that moment of human drama played out in front of me, I smiled to myself and chalked it up as a lesson for every human being.
The Bible urges Christians to show compassionate care for one another. Jesus says our love for the brothers is a distinctive mark of our faith’s authenticity. James reminds us that “Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight.” (James 1:27, The Message) John says that if our love is just words, it is worthless, “Let us really show it by our actions.” (1 John 3.18)
Given what we know about humanity, what happened when that kind of concern is paramount? You guessed it. Among those of genuine need, there are people who just want to be carried who show up and demand that we take care of their needs. They are quite capable but choose to exploit the compassion of the church.
Our sense that we must always be affirming and loving, makes taking corrective action in those situation a very difficult thing to do. How do we find a way to point those who are simply looking to avoid dealing with life to mature self-sufficiency without seeming to be uncaring? How do we help them best by leading them to become engaged with the daily work that is required to produce resources?
Then, too, we are reluctant to appear that we are judging someone without fully understanding their issues, and the lack of depth in our community leaves us incapable of having the honest conversation that might reveal the larger need.
It is not just groceries and/or rent money that can become an issue. The Church has many members who have never found the joy of serving, of being part of the work of God in the world. They want good sermons, inspiration, children’s and youth ministries, comfortable houses of worship, but they do not contribute to the work either with time or resources. Their way of life, if not their words, says “Carry me!”
Out of a lifetime of pastoral work, I can make this corollary observation – those who contribute the least are often the worst critics of those who are using spiritual gifts and engaged in the work of Jesus. Theirs is a kind of perpetual spiritual infancy that is not the norm for Christian living. In the church in Corinth, there were many who liked showy worship and love feasts but who would not serve. Paul called them ‘infants’ who were incapable of receiving the ‘meat’ of the Word even though they should have matured in faith a long time ago.
Those Christians most deeply satisfied with their faith and most likely to be steady in their church fellowship, are those who find a place to serve, one that maximizes the gift of the Spirit given to them. Do they get tired? Yes, they do. Do they find success in every endeavor? No, they don’t. Are they always rewarded with appreciation? That answer is obvious. Yet, they show up, give, learn the Scripture, deal with the disappointments, and build a life that honors Christ Jesus in the ordinary. Their life is an illustration of Jesus’ words – “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.” (Matthew 5:5, The Message)
Want to honor the Lord, grow in grace, and find lasting joy in the Lord? These words from the Word are a place to start.
“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, NIV) “We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:11-12, NIV)
There are lives to save, a world to serve, and a God to glorify. Let’s do together not demanding – “Carry me.”
A charge to keep I have
A God to glorify
A never dying soul to save
And fit it for the sky
To serve the present age
My calling to fulfill
O may it all my powr’s engage
To do my Master’s will
Arm me with jealous care
As in Thy sight to live
And O Thy servant Lord prepare
A strict account to give
Help me to watch and pray
And on Thyself rely
Assured if I my trust betray
I shall forever die