Summary: Some things people should do for themselves, and some things are too much to bear alone, and we need to help them, and it is wisdom to know the difference.
Fix Your Own Hotdog
I invite you to turn in your Bibles now to Galatians chapter six and follow along as I read verses 1-5.
1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
3 For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.
4 But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.
5 For every man shall bear his own burden.
Amen. The Word of God. Thanks be to God.
When I was in seminary, I was the pastor of a church in Belton SC. This particular church liked to have hotdog suppers. I don’t know why but they did not do many covered dish suppers of the type we did last Sabbath, but they liked their hotdogs. After I became pastor there, at the first hotdog supper we attended, my wife Beth caused something of a scandal. First, let me describe what they had been doing. This was their custom: After the blessing, the husbands would be seated, and the wives would fix a hotdog and bring it to the seated husband. Then the wives would fix their own plates. When a husband finished eating a hotdog, the wife would get up, fix him another, and bring that to him. Throughout the supper, there was this process of wives busily fixing hotdogs and husbands equally busily scarfing them down.
The scandal at our first hotdog supper was that Beth turned to me and said, “Fix your own hotdog.” Now she did not say that in a mean way, but she said it loudly enough and firmly enough for everyone to hear. And I immediately knew which side of the hotdog my mustard was on—so to speak, so I did. I got up, went over to the food table, and fixed my own.
After that there was a brief flurry of conversation, and all the other wives apparently like very well what Beth said, because ever after that no other hotdogs were fixed by wives for husbands. A tradition went down in flames that night, shot down by the preacher’s wife.
Now before you start thinking of Beth as a wild-eyed women’s liberation type, I need to tell you another little truth. I prefer to fix my own hotdog. It is not a big deal. If Beth fixed a hotdog for me, and gave it to me, I would say thank you and eat it and enjoy it, but if I have my “druthers,” I would “druther” fix my own—because no one knows how much mustard or chili or onions I want at that particular time. So Beth was not declaring her freedom and imposing a burden upon me. She was telling me to do what she knew I preferred to do anyway.
All of which brings me to the point the Apostle Paul is making in Galatians chapter 6. Some things people should do for themselves, and some things are too much to bear alone, and we need to help them, and it is wisdom to know the difference.
The word “do-gooder” has a negative meaning because “do-gooders” are people who try to do for others, what others need to do for themselves, or they try to do what does not need to be done at all. I am reminded of an old story I first heard when I was a Boy Scout. The scoutmaster tells a young scout, “Son, I want you to go up town right now and do a good deed.” The scout was gone for sometime and then returned all smiles and happily informed the scoutmaster that he had in fact done a good deed. “What did you do?” asked the scoutmaster. “I helped a little old lady across the street,” said the boy. Then he added, “Of course she fought me all the way, and I had to drag her across.”
That old story illustrates the point that we often do not have the wisdom to know what others need or want done for them. This is a criticism that has been offered of many welfare programs or assistance programs.
Over the last year, the ministerial association has studied our local assistance programs. In York, we have three types of programs: Individual churches have their own programs. The ministerial association has a transient fund that provides lodging for homeless folks. And we have PATH, which is a community program to help people in need.
All of these programs are good, but sometimes they tend to create dependency. For example, PATH has been existence for a little over twenty years. In some cases, they are now proving assistance to the third generation of the same family. Twenty years ago, PATH helped these folks and today PATH is helping their grandchildren.