From Guilt to Joy

By Mark A. Taylor

As I remember it, I spent most of my first full-time ministry feeling guilty.

The issue was my time and what to do with it.

When I was working for the church, I worried about how much time I was spending away from home.

When I was home, I worried about all the church work I—or some church member—thought I should be doing.

It was a lose-lose situation that I escaped with my move to the 9-to-5 world of the publishing house. But since then I’ve replaced my guilt about time with fretting about money.

It seems to me I have too much of it, at least when compared with how little is held by most of the world’s population. But then I compare my lifestyle with that of some Christians, and I think maybe I deserve more. These serving, worshiping, evangelizing, Bible-studying Christians own stainless steel outdoor grills and timeshares and SUVs and golf clubs that I don’t have but wish I did. (Well, I wouldn’t want the golf clubs—I don’t have time to golf!)

I look at their abundance and consider how much I could buy with what I give away, and I think maybe I’m doing enough for the unfortunate in our world. After all, what would it profit the poor if I gave up my whole income and just became one of them? Then I’d be forced to live off the generosity of Christians who decided to keep some of their stuff!

Two things have become clear to me. First, guilt, especially false guilt, is the unhealthiest of motivators. Second, God wants me to use all my money (and my time too) for his glory; how I spend on myself can express my worship of him just as surely as what I invest in others.

This week’s two lead articles show us Christians making a significant difference in the lives of those around them with pressing needs. And after they serve, they still have plenty left for themselves. In Jesus’ name, for God’s glory, they are relieving the misfortune of others without needing to feel guilty about the time and money still theirs after giving some away.

They’ve learned that comparing themselves with others can bring dissatisfaction, but giving one’s self for others leads to joy. That joy is the opposite of guilt. And, as a third writer this week reminds us, it is also a fruit of the Spirit living within believers who continue the process of surrendering to his control.

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