A new year is upon us! A new decade, in fact. However, if you are anticipating a “new you” or a new life, there will be little hope for that if you do not first adopt a new perspective. Life does not change simply because the digits on the calendar change. If you carry your old self into a new year or a new decade, you will most certainly end up with the same results as the former years and decades.
I believe one of the greatest perspective changes one can make is that of being a contributor vs. being a consumer. The attitude of “What’s in it for me?” or “What am I getting out of this?” is well ingrained into our culture. We are self-centered beings by nature and whether we recognize it or not, we often measure situations using a scale of personal benefits. If we receive less return than our investment, we often deem that situation as unworthy and promptly remove ourselves from it. That may work well for business and other profit seeking endeavors, but it is not always the best attitude for life.
The problem with holding to the attitude of “What am I getting out of this?” is that it makes one miserable because they are never truly satisfied. There is always something they do not have that they feel they should. There is always someone who has not treated them as well as they feel they should be treated. There is always something that others have failed to provide for them.
On the other hand, what if one were to be more concerned with contributing than they are with consuming? What if the question in one’s measure was “What am I giving into this?” when examining a situation? Now we can begin talking about a “new you” for a new decade!
If you take a moment to consider it, you will recognize that maturity is marked by seeking what one can contribute over what one can gain. Self-absorbed individuals are not only aggravating, but typically immature. Children are primarily concerned about what they are going to get or how a situation affects them. A child who actually displays a giving heart is often lauded for possessing a maturity beyond their years.
Unfortunately, the Church of Jesus Christ is not immune from such immaturity. Christians can be notorious for viewing their local assembly through the attitude of “What am I getting out of this?” The church is expected to make one feel a certain way or to provide the best quality of care and vibrant ministries for Christians to be consumers of. The absurdity of such thinking is revealed in the fact that Christians are the church! If you feel that the local church you are attending is weak in a particular area, perhaps it is because you are not contributing to that area to bring it strength. My advice to you is stop attending church and start being the church!
I know of a mega-church located in Arizona which grew largely through the congregation embracing one simple ideal – Find a Need and Meet It. Take notice that the philosophy was not “Find a need and complain about it” or “Find a need and use it as an excuse to leave”, but “Find a need and meet it”.
In the Book of Romans, the Apostle Paul is addressing the fact that salvation has come, not only to the Jewish people, but to all the peoples of the earth through Jesus Christ. While revealing that all of God’s promises and blessings were now open up to the Gentiles, Paul makes mention of a particular offering that was taken up by Gentile churches to bless needy believers in Jerusalem. Paul then writes, “26 For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. 27 It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things.” (Romans 15:26-27). You see, being part of the church is not simply about partaking, but it is also (even more so) about providing.
This brings me to the question posed in the title of this particular post; Are you a locomotive or a boxcar? Locomotives generate motion. They move things. Boxcars sit, waiting to be moved. Far too many people wait around expecting others to provide them with momentum. They look for and find places where locomotive-type individuals are making things happen and quickly attach themselves so that they may enjoy the ride. Being a boxcar is rather easy, but it is not very fulfilling. Being a locomotive is often difficult, but the sense of fulfillment is much greater over the long haul of the tracks.
If you are truly looking for a “new you” in this new and upcoming decade, may I suggest that you follow the words of Jesus Christ, “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.” (Luke 6:35)
Contribute and make situations and other people stronger. Build foundations and frameworks instead of wondering why the building is incomplete. Become a locomotive.
Until next time, may your coffee and contemplations be rich and fulfilling… as well as your New Year!