We've all heard the sayings "nothing comes for free" or "there's no such thing as a free lunch" used to convey the idea that there is an ulterior motive behind every good thing in this world. Lately, I have found this to be so true; and now more than ever.
Now, normally this is the place where I, as a follower of Jesus, should go on a rant about how dishonest our culture has become and how the world around us is nothing more than a bunch of liars, cheats and swindlers. Regardless of how true that statement is, I'm going to spare everyone from the morally self-righteous pig out that such discussions inevitably come to. Instead, I'm going to tell you why I'm GLAD that the world is out for themselves. I've actually come to this cool place where I see the Jesus-like response to a society of selffulness. And its not waht you'd expect.
I recently got referred to a couple that needed some financial guidance. I, for a reason I have yet to nail down, have become a counselor for people in financial crisis. Its a long story to how I got in such a business, but somehow I miraculously find myself as a guru in this area. And, since I am a man who enjoys being know as good at things, I gladly take the label.
In any case, I was given the phone number of this couple who were in financial dire straits. I called them to set up an appointment to meet, and I encountered an attitude that had never entered my ears before. The story goes, I briefly told the gentleman what I do, how I do it, and then I offered a few options of times that I would be open to an appointment. Rather than give me dates, he replied with a warning. It seems that his wife had not wanted him to get a hold of me, because they had no money to pay me for my services. And therefore, the gentlemen continued, they would have to set up a payment plan if we were to go ahead with our meeting. My response was only partly genuine when I said "pay me for what?". He replied with "you know; pay for your services".
When I communicated to him that my services were not tied to any cost, he immediately asked what was in it for me. To him, there had to be some catch involved; some ulterior motive that brought my own interests into the equation. Was there some budgeting software to buy? A fee to help him consolidate debt? Some loan program that I could get him into? After testing all the angles, and fully expecting one of them to lead to his preconceived notion, it finally hit him like a ton of bricks. He actually began to weep on the phone. "You mean to tell me that you just do this to help out other people? That there's nothing in it for you?" he sniffled. I told him that there was something in it for me, that being the hope that I could help him and his wife get out of a bind. The ironic thing was that he and his wife had just been talking the day before about how there's no place to go in the world to get help without some sort of string attached! How true! Suddenly, I found myself in a moment of complete clarity on so many things.
The lesson here is that there is a great opportunity to show people what the real love of God is like. And, since the world does such a crappy job of showing any REAL love, service and long suffering, it really gives us a great gift. The gift of contrast. In my situation, the contrast between the cynical, underhanded world and my simple offer of true help was like the difference between night and day. A beacon on a hill, ya know?
Since that interaction, I've had a few other similar situations where people are quick to get skeptical, and slow to believe that anything can be truly altruistic and pure. To be honest, I like it. I like using the darkness of the world to show an unfamiliar light. And isn't that all Jesus calls us to do? In fact, I guess that I DO have ulterior motives in these things. Only my ulterior motive is to show the world what love looks like. That can't be a bad thing, can it?
So the world around us is sick and dying. So people are less caring and more devious. So it seems that its all going to hell in a hurry. Perfect. That way, any showing of loving service, in the way of Christ, will stand out even more. If we're looking for ways to show Jesus to the world; there you go.