What I Learned from a Garbage Bin

Romans 15:2, 3 2 Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.  3 For even Christ did not please himself . . .

Romans 15:17 Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God.

In our community, everyone has the same large, green garbage bins – the kind the trucks can pick up and dump without a human leaving the truck.  In addition, we have recycling bins that are emptied the same day as the garbage.  Most people dutifully remove both their bins from the street within a day of their emptying.  There are a few, however, who aren’t so prompt in the pick-up, and, frankly, it irritates me.

There was one neighbor who began leaving his bins streetside throughout the week, though it hadn’t always been this way.  At first, I was irritated week after week, seeing the green “decoration” every time I passed that way.  Then I remembered how much of a struggle this man has now with his own physical limitations and his wife in a wheelchair; so, I began to lug those bins down the driveway to their keeping places when I walked the dog.  (Please, don’t start thinking how thoughtful I am, for I’ll quickly prove you wrong. :))

I honestly don’t think I would have done anything about it if it didn’t bother me.  My motivation was not, as Christ’s, completely for the benefit of my neighbor.  While it wasn’t to make me feel good about myself for helping someone who could use the help, it was for personal benefit in a different way – to make me feel better by not having to look at the big green garbage cans.

Add to my wrong motive the fact that there is a grown granddaughter living in this home who is fully capable of helping with things such as the garbage, and any good attitude was gone.  I didn’t grouse (in my mind) while doing this “act of kindness” because of the elderly couple.  My grousing was about the granddaughter who should take on the responsibility, or on other nearby neighbors who could pitch in.  While entertaining all these thoughts, I did try to tell myself it must only bother me, so just find personal satisfaction in doing it.  I praise God that He wasn’t willing to leave me in this messy state!

In my regular Bible reading, the verses of Romans 15 began to minister to me about my garbage can attitude.  I know this is not what Paul had in mind with these verses, but the Lord used them that way for me.  It was time to get rid of the stinking attitude for good, not to stop being a helpful neighbor.  While I understood immediately, I wondered how to break out of this attitude until I came to the phrase, “in my service to God.”  There it was, plain and simple.  The reason for doing whatever I do is to serve my Lord and glorify Him.  It’s not up to me to determine other people’s motivations, or lack thereof.  It’s only my place to do what He gives me to do, serving Him while I serve others – regardless of who else might be able to do it.

There is a possibility that the Lord has crafted me in such a way as to be bothered by things like garbage cans still by the street long after pickup, knowing it will attract my attention to help a neighbor, ultimately serving and glorifying Him in the process.  I needed these verses to expose the ugly motives (for I had definitely seen them), but to root them out and return my focus to Him.  Oh, the glorious transforming power of His Word!  I’ll bet the next time I do whatever the Lord shows me, I will find much greater joy because it will be another opportunity to serve Him – all because of His Word.