Never Do Good For Nothing: 
From A Receiver To A Giver

by Fr. Stephen Siniari

(Fall 1999 / Winter 2000)

  We were always happy to see them in the beginning. Each time they came we felt sure their situation was improving. They said all the right things. They dressed in the manner we expected. They knew the "catch-phrases." They exhibited the appropriate amount of humility. We knew we could help them. We were good and faithful servants.

   We didn’t have a clue. We gave money, food, household items. Hey! We trusted. We were doing good. They smiled. We smiled. They were grateful. We were gracious.

   We were doing God’s work. They even quoted Scripture. We liked it. It made us feel better, especially when we saw them helping at their church; in the choir, the school.

   Somehow we missed the warning signs. He was out of work, but wouldn’t go go for job counseling. She declined odd-day-jobs, saying, "I’m a stay-at-home mom, I can’t leave my kids." Nevermind the kids were in school all day. The family needed social services, but referrals went unheeded. Rent and utility bills were a monthly cash crisis. We didn’t understand why they would let medical and dental emergencies go untreated when a simple application procedure would have provided for a myriad of family needs. They seemed vigorously resistant when offered legitimate long-term solutions. But we ignored all that and made excuses for them, and chastised ourselves for being worldly-minded, judgmental, and suspicious. We somehow found the strength to keep on sowing, to reap our reward, to broaden our philanthropic smile.

   A friend tried to open our eyes, but we refused to see the true need. Material things are easy to give. Anyone can do it. We chose to ignore our friend’s experience. He was too rough. He’d lost his compassion.

   Then one day it happened. Innocently, inadvertently, we were given the blessed opportunity to compare notes with another group of eager do-gooders who were also zealously engaged in "blessing" this same family with the beneficence of heaven.

   We were so busy feeling good about the good we were doing, we didn’t stop to consider that we might be hurting them, aiding and abetting their indolence, self-deception, self-destruction, and, "trafficking on Christ."

   The old friend said, "Hey, wake up and smell the incense." And that was a beginning, but just a beginning. We had been willfully self-directed in applying, "Freely have ye received, freely give." We ignored our old friend, and became poor stewards of the resources God had placed in our trust. We had been "unfaithful" over a little. We prepared "pottage" in exchange for eternal inheritance. We had given our stewardship to the deceiver. We had disconnected the material from the spiritual We had discarded the inner pearl and so reduced what we gave to the proverbial prodigal husk.

  Maybe it would have been easier if they’d turned and trampled us. We could have nurtured our anger, hurt, and resentment, felt sorry for ourselves, and happy in having been betrayed for a worthy cause, knowing they must surely be ashamed for their sins.

   We could’ve had some comfort in having the teeth kicked out of our philanthropic smile. But no, we couldn’t even relish feeling good about our gap-toothed chagrin. Why? The old friend ruined it.

   "Get off the cross," he said, "We need the wood. Let’s stop feeling sorry for ourselves. We were not good stewards. We were merely serving our own ego. Now let’s get back to work. They need our help. We need to serve, but not merely with silver and gold."

  And them, they could have just gone away, but they didn’t. They kept coming around. They kept asking for help. They "explained away" the obvious. They had an answer for everything. They justified their piracy… And we were left to answer; "Now what do we do?" No easy answers.

  Our friend said: "The greatest charity is to help a person change from being a receiver to being a giver." He reminded us, "To serve, or not to serve? That is not the question. The question is not: Do we serve? But Why we serve… And Who we serve…   It’s not what we want… It’s what He wants… We serve others, "…as unto Him…"

  Our friend mused, "We serve knowing the outcome is not in our hands."

Oh, yes, and he said one other thing, he said, "There’s only One Suffering Servant, and it’s not us. Let’s get over ourselves. We can participate in His servanthood, knowing in advance, that doing good is going to cost us.. You never bang a nail for another without nipping your own thumb, without drawing a little blood. You never do good for nothing."


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