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As I stand in the queue in the car park of the supermarket on my weekly excursion for shopping there are a number of things that it is hard to escape from. Amongst them are hearing one side of a mobile telephone conversation. It doesn’t matter how hard you try to block it out, there it is. Last week, the man in front of me in the queue was obviously taking part in a very important business negotiation, in fact so enthusiastic was he, that if the other person had been in the county of Kent, then I don’t think the mobile phone would have been completely necessary for him to be heard!

But something stood out in his conversation that caught my attention and made me think. Three separate times he asked the question, “How does that benefit me?” And then what really sparked with me was the line, “Well I’m certainly not doing this for your benefit!” I don’t know if his negotiations and deal were successful as at that point we went our different ways, I headed for the fruit & veg and he set off in the direction of the bakery.

My mind began to wonder how it would be if we all lead our lives with the motto of, “How does that benefit me?” I tried to imagine parts of my ministry as a deacon.
Deacon Ian, could you lead a prayer during the service at school please? – How does that benefit me?

Deacon Ian, would you be able to baptise our new baby? How does that benefit me?

Deacon Ian, can you please bless this rosary? How does that benefit me?

I wonder how long my ministry would last if I took that approach?

The same could probably be said for any of our relationships in our lives, be it family, friends, social or work colleagues, if we are only going to look for how it benefits me, then each of those relationships isn’t going to last very long.

But what if we were to take a more Christ like approach? What if we were to turn the question on it’s head and ask, “How will it benefit you?” Not in a way that suggests that they are doing better out of the deal and that I’m losing out. More in a way that says, I’m giving this to you, the benefit is my gift to you. Christ tells us that in giving we receive, and this couldn’t be more true if we are putting others first.

Whilst it might be considered human nature to put ourselves first and make sure that we have all that we need, it does at times seem a bit of a contradiction to our lives in the faith. If we work hard and earn the benefits that we enjoy, that is right and proper. The conflict occurs when we benefit at the detriment of others. When we might take advantage of a society that takes the benefits of hard work away from those who have earned it.

Jesus tells us to store up treasures in heaven rather than here on earth – what more of a benefit could anybody ask for?

I was asked once, “So what are the benefits of being a deacon?” The only reply I could think of at the time was, “Well, when the church is packed, standing room only, I know I’m going to get a seat!” But in reflection, have you seen the size of the somewhat petite seat that my rather ample frame has to occupy!

I would hope that as I reflect on this question, I might be able to answer that in what I do and say, others might be able to see a little bit of Christ that shines into their world. That is the same for each of us, regardless of our position in the parish.

So next time I’m tempted to ask, “How does that benefit me?” I challenge myself to swap it round to, “How will that benefit you?”, and then act on the outcome!

Deacon Ian Black

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