By Vernon A. Williams, Gary Crusader
How much of a difference did you make in 2016? Seriously. Looking back, where and whom did your physical, spiritual or intellectual gift enhance.
I don’t mean how well you did financially because whether your personal coffers hit rock bottom and you had to scrounge to make ends meet, or you realized a meteoric rise in income to unimagined prosperity, neither provides a yardstick to measure impact.
I don’t mean how much of a difference people SAY you made. Most of us know that we are never quite as worthy as our most ardent supporters, and never nearly as despicable as assessed by our worst adversaries. We usually fall somewhere in between. So recognition provides no gauge.
I don’t even mean how much of your talent, time or treasure you gave – but now you’re getting warmer.
The amount that you gave is only relevant in terms of what you sacrificed. If you stayed firmly within your comfort zone in sharing resources, expertise, abilities, or participation, then there was little or no genuine sacrifice.
A sacrifice may be freely given, but it’s not a genuine sacrifice if it doesn’t mean anything to us. When we feel the pain of our sacrifice—we know that we are really giving up something important. As we grow in our faith, we give our sacrifices to God more freely because we understand His greater sacrifice that allows us to know His grace.
When a year draws to an end, folks typically reflect on the past 12 months. Some are generous in their assessment and conclude that they did the best that they could. Many are hypercritical in self-condemnation of not having done nearly enough. That evaluation is linked to expectations for the coming year.
Recently speaking to Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) students about “giving back,” it was gratifying to hear how many of them are already involved in substantive community service – and how those who aren’t at this point are anxious to get started in what they vow to be a lifetime commitment.
These students understand that you don’t have to be a world leader, a national icon, a state official, county luminary or even a citywide celebrity to make a difference. All have the capacity to become agents of change without anyone knowing.
The greatest reward of true sacrifice for others is a meaningful outcome; knowing that someone, somewhere or something is measurably improved as a result of your contribution – that you stepped outside of self-ingratiation to offer thankless service for the greater good at a discernible level of personal sacrifice. That’s what it’s all about.
Many believers sacrifice their time, money, and energy doing good works for God. However, we must be careful not to let the sacrifice supplant obedience. No matter how generous or well meaning, a sacrificial gift to the Lord is honored only as long as we are obeying His commandments and teaching others to do the same.
You have gangsters, pimps and drug dealers who give out turkeys on Thanksgiving and pay for toys distributed at Christmas. Their good deeds are unworthy. Don’t let the seeming triumphs of those without a soul confuse you. Obedience counts.
All the charity and volunteerism in the world won’t negate day-to-day rejection or defiance of the word of God. No level of generosity will pardon those who plot and scheme suffering; whose thoughts and words injure or destroy, whose deeds ignore or facilitate evil.
Remember that time, talent and treasure are merely what we offer the world in manifestation of the Holy Spirit. God wants our praise, worship, faith and obedience to substantiate our commitment and adherence to His will. Isaiah 64:5-6 (NIV) says:
5 You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways.
But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry.
How then can we be saved?
6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
Forget resolutions. Instead, strive to walk in greater obedience, to always do better, to forgive in the same manner we want to be forgiven, and to be Kingdom-minded – knowing that anything of substance that you will ever get in life is directly in proportion to how much you are willing to sacrifice.
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].