It’s that time of year where the country gets excited about doing 67 minutes of something good – volunteering, or donating, or knitting squares – and if I’m honest, I just don’t feel it. The whole idea of Madiba Day actually makes me uncomfortable.
Of course, helping others is a good thing.
It’s not the idea of community service that makes me uncomfortable. Helping those less fortunate is a good thing, and something that God wants us to do. He wants us to help the needy. Serving them is one of the ways that we serve him.
Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”
Then the righteous will answer him, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?”
And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these, my brothers,you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:34-40)
There are so many needy people in South Africa. We are a nation still battling the legacy of apartheid as well as dealing with a dismal economy. All around us are signs of need: squatter camps, people begging at traffic lights, homeless people freezing to death on the streets.
It’s too easy to develop a thick skin, to think, “Oh, surely someone else will help that person.” It’s too easy to develop a cynical view and think, “They’re probably conning us; they’re going to use the money for drugs or alcohol.”
And so we justify our indifference.
We shouldn’t be indifferent. We should be troubled, and moved, and inspired to do something.
But 67 minutes a year?
There is nothing sacrificial about giving up just 67 minutes if it’s only about soothing your conscience. What about the remaining 364 days, 22 hours and 53 minutes of the year?
I understand that people are busy, and perhaps 67 minutes of active community service is all you can manage in a calendar full of family and work commitments. But there are other ways to extend your service that don’t require your physical presence or a lot of your time.
Make regular donations to a local charity. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably got a bit of clutter that you’re keeping just in case. How about going through the clutter and donating what you don’t use to a local charity shop. Most charity shops will take anything, even single earrings and half-finished tubes of lipstick. We donate to the Hidden Treasure Charity Shop, which supports students studying through the Baptist Theological College. We also give our baby items and clothes to the Ruth Pregnancy Crisis Centre.
Support your church’s grocery ministry. This really is as simple as adding an extra can or two of food to your trolley when grocery shopping.
Give financially to an outreach or charity. Setting up a debit order is probably the easiest way to support a charity.
We should help because we are moved to compassion by the plight of others. We should help because we are the hands and feet of Jesus in this world. We should help because it’s how we can show God’s love to others.
My real issue with Madiba Day is this: Nelson Mandela was an extraordinary man but he is not God. We should be glorifying God with our acts of service, not performing them to honour the legacy of a man.
That is the lesson we want our daughters to learn: that we help others because it is part of God’s command to love our neighbour as ourselves, and that serving others is one way to serve God.
If you belong to a church, then I recommend getting involved with one of the outreach ministries your church runs.
Here’s my challenge: don’t limit your acts of service to one hour on a specific day of the year. Look for ways to show God’s love to others every day.
What do you think?
[Edited to include this link to 50 ways you can bless others without spending a penny.]