This post is part of Archive August and was originally published February 22, 2008,
I’ve been grumpy lately.
I’ve been feeling overtired, overwhelmed, and underappreciated. Work and church have kept me busy, and I probably haven’t been taking the appropriate amount of time to rest and recharge my batteries, but I have begun to realize that my grumpiness probably doesn’t stem primarily from that. I think most of my negative feelings are coming from the fact that I feel somewhat taken advantage of.
I admit that my perspective may be skewed, but I feel as if I have been giving a lot of my time and effort to other people without getting anything back in return. Coupled with the intermitent feeling that some of these people are taking advantage of my willingness to help, do, forgive, or be patient, and most of my life, from work to church to family relationships, have become lifeless, joyless chores.
I had begun to feel that I needed to just stop helping certain people or being patient with others. Afterall, if it is causing me to be so miserable, it obviously is ok to stop doing. Then I remembered the following passage from the Sermon on the Mount:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist the evildoer. But whoever strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other to him as well. And if someone wants to sue you and to take your tunic, give him your coat also. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to the one who asks you, and do not reject the one who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:38-42, NET)
I have heard countless explanations of this verse that weaken its meaning and give excuses to Christians not to help people. And I have to admit that I have justified in my own mind why this verse doesn’t mean what it says. In fact, when the passage sprung to mind this time, I immediately began explaining to myself that Jesus would never want Christians being taken advantage of so he must have just been using hyperbole to get his point across. But this time, I couldn’t convince myself. Jesus meant what he said. Help people when they ask, even if it means being taken advantage of.
This revelation unfortunately is not a comforting one. I would have rather remembered a verse that told me everything would be ok or one that justified no longer making myself vulnerable to being used. Instead, I was reminded to keep putting myself out there, ministering to needs as I see them, and occasionally getting taken advantage of.
I may not be able to control how other people respond to being helped (or even how they respond when I ask for help in return), but I can control my own behavior. All I can do is be obedient to Scripture and allow God to take care of the rest. In the meantime, I will guard my heart from becoming bitter, seek my comfort in his arms, and try my best not to take advantage of others.