What do you think? As a follower of Christ, should you be someone who seeks to help other people, or should you be someone who is really only interested in helping yourself?
Clearly, the first choice is the right answer — we should each have a heart for helping others. Not only is it a good way to live as a member of the human race, but it is also an important part of our service to God. As King Benjamin taught, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).
What does it mean to be in the service of your fellow beings? It means doing things for others without expecting anything in return. If we do something for someone else as part of a quid pro quo arrangement where “one hand washes the other” (I do something for you, you do something for me), that’s not really the same thing. There’s nothing wrong with this type of arrangement, but clearly that’s a case of helping others AND helping yourself.
Jesus touches on this in the Sermon on the Mount, saying that if you want your actions to be considered service to God, you should be the hand that washes the other hand secretly, showing that you don’t expect that other hand to wash you back:
“When thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:3-4).
Of course, there are many things we may do that clearly benefit other people. Perhaps we make a donation to someone who is in need (referred to as “alms” in the verses above). Or volunteer at a soup kitchen. Or take a day to help someone move. Or give someone a ride. Or visit someone who is sick. Anything like this is clearly service to God, right?
Yes, it is service to God as long as you observe one simple rule — Don’t tell other people what you are doing. Jesus is very clear about this:
“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.” (Matthew 6:1-2)
Some may ask — What’s the big deal? I’m still helping people, right? Why should the value of what I’m doing be diminished just because I tell other people what I’ve done?
The value is diminished in the eyes of God because by calling attention to what you’ve done, you convert the action into something that helps others AND helps yourself. It could be questioned whether that’s, in fact, your motivation — to gain the praise and admiration of others. If so, then, as Jesus puts it in the verse above, you’re seeking the “glory of men,” so that’s your reward instead of however God might have rewarded you for your actions.
The key is to examine your motivation for helping others. If you really just want to help, then it shouldn’t matter whether anybody else knows what you’ve done. So, do it and forget about it. Don’t bring it up in conversation such that others will say how great it is that you did that.
It may help to think of yourself as an instrument being used by God to help somebody else. When you think of it this way, you can then give Him the praise for providing for the person, either minimizing or eliminating mention of your own involvement. For example:
- Instead of saying, “I increased my donations this year so now the church can help more people,” say, “Thank God that He inspired the church members to give more this year.”
- Instead of saying, “I went to the hospital and prayed for this person and they were healed,” say, “Thank God for healing the person in the hospital after they were anointed.”
Of course, depending on the situation, you may wind up getting recognition for what you’ve done without intending to do so — you can’t help that. But God knows your heart. So, as long as you’re not the one calling attention to what you’ve done, you’re demonstrating to God that your motives are pure.
It’s a great blessing to be used by God to help others. It’s great to have that helping heart within us. Let’s just make sure that helping others is the real priority as opposed to helping our own reputation or perceived value. Trust that God sees what is being done in secret, and He will reward you openly!
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.