Charity is good, and so is helping people. When you are ready to go deeper in your spirituality of service to others you will eventually be confronted with a choice about remaining superficial or diving right in and getting your hands dirty.
Some years ago I served as pastor of a church that had an outreach ministry to a group of people in an urban part of town. We provided food, scholarship money, and other assistance that was needed by a segment of the community – but we never got our hands dirty, by which I mean we always had them come to us and never ventured to their neighborhood. That meant we never really got to know them, we just had them parade before us in a very safe, sanitary, and artificial environment – not unlike a human zoo. On specially selected days, we added to their financial burden by asking them to drive out to where we met or to a special event we held, but we never “got our hands dirty” by meeting them on their turf and in doing so never accepted them as our equals. There was more than a little bit of self-aggrandizement about how wonderful we were to help these people, and I wouldn’t say that our help wasn’t needed. In truth it did a lot of good, including providing a staple of their diet that lasted most of the year, but we really missed an opportunity to engage in a mutually transforming relationship. It’s in those relationships that real spiritual growth occurs – and that our hands get a little dirty, in a good sort of way.