not benefactor but servant

Because of Jesus’ radical giving—giving all, and working without asking anything in return—he became and remained poor himself. This set his generosity apart from the generosity of others. He did not give a small portion of his wealth, but gave recklessly. Jesus was not a benefactor who maintained control of his resources, doling them out as he thought reasonable, and being praised for his generosity. He gave all and so became lowly and dependent himself.

Such giving is not praised by others; it is called “irresponsible.” And it is humbling. Because in giving everything we give up control of the situation, give up our position as benefactor and join the vulnerable in their vulnerability and dependence. But this is the way of serving that Jesus modeled and taught:

Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For which is greater, one who sits at table, or one who serves? Is it not the one who sits at table? But I am among you as one who serves.” (Lk 22.25-27)
Jesus did not help people from a position of wealth or political power, but from a position of vulnerability and weakness. He was not independent or self-sufficient. He gave what he had to give and trusted God to inspire others to supply his needs through what they had to give. In this, Jesus demonstrated the difference between being a benefactor and being a servant.

And Jesus taught his followers to be servants as well:
When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” (Jn 13. 12-14)
This is not just performing “a service,” but actually putting ourselves in the vulnerable position of a servant. The dependent position. In which our own will and needs are set aside to attend to the needs of another. In which the one being helped is not humiliated (as a beggar) but we put ourselves in the humbler position.

The intention is to direct attention to the God we serve, who is the true benefactor for all of us. The desire is not to direct people’s attention to ourselves or encourage them to put their trust in us or become dependent on us. This would do nothing to address the deeper, more important problem of our separation from God. We are to show—in all areas of our lives, just as Jesus did—that we are all dependent on God. And that it is in faith, trusting God in our dependence and weakness, that we find God.