Instead of the typical Vacation Bible School (VBS) that most churches do (usually consisting of 5 weekday morning sessions), our church does a 3-day, 2-night Vacation Bible Camp (in which the kids and staff camp out for a little over 48 hours). The kids love it, but it’s a whole lot of work for all the volunteers! This year my older son served on the “work crew,” which was a team of 10 high-schoolers who set up tents, cleaned bathrooms, washed dishes, and generally served as the go-fers for the camp. My son (and the rest of the team) worked really hard, with great attitudes–I was super proud of them!
But I was even more pleased when the day after camp, while my son was still very tired, he walked in to the kitchen, saw the sink full of dirty dishes, and immediately stepped up and washed them all. No one asked him to do it, and no one praised him for doing it–he just did it.
Some opportunities to serve (OTS) are big and visible and short-lived, such as serving on the work crew for Vacation Bible Camp. In one sense, that kind of OTS is easy because there is immediate payoff in the kudos that it (rightfully!) procures. Other kinds of OTS are small and seemingly invisible and ongoing, such as washing dishes at home. Though the work itself may be exactly the same (they washed dishes at camp too), the fact that it’s everyday and unending and probably doesn’t garner any praise, makes it much harder to do with a joyful attitude. And I’m not just speaking about my son here!
In Jesus’ parable of the talents (in Matthew 25), the Divine commendation to the faithful servants is: “You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.” It did not matter how much each servant had started with or how much they had gained–what made them “good and faithful servants” was that they had invested and used the little that they had been given. Immediately after this parable, Jesus gives His well-known challenge that what Christians do for “the least of these,” Jesus sees as being done for Him directly. But in what Jesus says there, the righteous who give food and drink and welcome and clothes to Jesus (through doing it for unknown needy ones) don’t even know that they have done that. They are simply going about their everyday lives in kindness and generosity and love. It is an everyday OTS, not a one-time big event. They are being faithful in the little things, serving in the little ways, trusting that their heavenly Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward them (Matthew 6:4).
So I hope that we who call ourselves Christians will not only do the big OTS events, but will also faithfully invest in the small, unseen OTS of our everyday lives. Don’t get me wrong–serving at Vacation Bible Camp (or School, as the case may be) is a very valuable investment of time and talent, so do it, and do it joyfully! But don’t stop there and rest on your laurels, but look for the dishes that need to be washed or the disabled daughter who needs a smile or the stressed-out coworker who could use some help. It’s in those little, unseen OTS that we unknowingly serve our Savior and point others to Him.