Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"Do a Little More for Jesus" -- The Trap of Expectations and Obligations

I'd like to share a video from one of my favorite bands, Mutemath. Posted below is the video for their song "Blood Pressure."

Kind of a trippy video, isn't it? I really enjoy these guys for both their musicality as well as their heart--they sing about stuff that resonates with me. While not a "Christian" band, the band members have expressed their faith in several venues, and it comes to expression both lyrically and thematically.

This song in particular hits me, especially as I think about the pressures on Christian teachers in terms of expectations and obligations. The line in the song, "Why can't you do a little more for Jesus?" sums up a lot of this. I think Christian teachers (, anyway) often take on a lot of extra stuff because it's expected that they will. In my most recent school position, I was serving on six separate committees, in addition to all of my other duties as a teacher. I was also serving as an adjunct instructor at a Christian college, and heavily involved in my church, both in leading a small group and regularly leading Sunday worship.

"Why can't you do a little more for Jesus?" You want me to coach the 7th grade girls basketball team too? You want me to serve on the Professional Development committee? You want me to serve on the church education committee? You want me to lead singing in chapel one Wednesday a month?

Somehow, it's almost a badge of honor to brag about how busy we are in Kingdom work.

I'm gradually shifting my thinking about this. While I've always been quick to volunteer for (too many) great Kingdom tasks, I'm really starting to think this is perhaps harmful for teachers. We have a finite number of hours in a day, after all. And for those of us with spouses and families, "Doing a little more for Jesus" might mean neglecting other important people in our lives.

Please hear me right--I'm not saying that Christian teachers shouldn't be active in other Kingdom work outside of their classrooms, because I think it's important that we use our gifts and talents in many venues, both in our vocations and our avocations. What I am saying is that when schools, communities, and even the teachers themselves fall into the trap of expectations and obligations, this is dangerous and unhealthy. (My pastor calls this "should-ing on people"--what a great phrase, isn't it?) If we feel obligated to serve on one more committee, if we think that we ought to plan every chapel for the next year because everyone is expecting us to, if we are neglecting our own needs or those of our family because of what we "should" be doing, we are missing the boat. I'm speaking here from painful first-hand experience. It's hard for me to say "no" to things, because I there's some part of me that thinks that if I have the gifts and talents to do something, I should do them. If I'm not, I'm somehow not doing enough for Jesus.

Right...doing it for Jesus. Except that...often...I'm doing it I want to look good. I want people to notice all the great stuff I'm doing and praise me for it. 

What I'm realizing is that this is idolatry. (Props to Tim Keller and my small group from church for helping to shape my thinking here.) I recognize that I'm making doing good stuff into an idol that I worship. I want people to think highly of me. I want people to value me for the things I do. I might even think that somehow I can win God's favor by working hard enough at it and doing enough good things--the things I "should" be doing.

Thanks be to God that He loved me first. There is nothing I can do that will make God love me any more or any less than He loves right now, and He loves as much as it is possible for an infinite God to love. What a thought!


  1. I think so often we do things for "ME"! Getting to the part of life when we can say NO is very difficult. A lot of times we do things to make ourself look good, and saying NO doesn't fit.

    We need to remember to do all things to bring God glory, not ourselves!

    1. Paul, it sounds like you are right there with me! Anybody else feel that way too?

    2. I have been there, done that. It took me 51 or 52 years to really KNOW this. I think we need to guard our time so that we don't push ourselves to the point of being so busy we can't really serve and live at the same time. And I think that the urge to be that busy with the RIGHT things is a trick that Satan plays on us to keep us from developing a richer relationship with our Saviour.

  2. It's incredibly easy to make good things, "Ultimate things" (as Keller would say). And if the only reason we choose to say, "Yes" to something is because we're scared of what people will think if we say, "No," then our real focus is our need for approval; not Kingdom work. Dave, you nailed it. Keep writing!

    1. Thanks for the feedback, my friend. Sounds like you've enjoyed Keller's work as well. He has a great way of challenging my thinking without making me feel like dirt... :-)