Image via Wikipedia
It’s PINK Tuesday! Last week we explored, from a Christian perspective, ways in which our faith and resources might be given as gifts to those in need. We established the importance of BOUNDARIES, we discussed the temptation to buy into GUILT, we learned that it is our RESPONSIBILITY to know how God has shaped us to serve Him in this world, and we decided that God intends for us to SHARE THE JOY of service with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
As surely as we need to know God’s instructions for how to HELP others, our circumstances necessitate an equally compelling need to know what God has to say about HOW we are to NEED.
- How are we to BE in this world when we aren’t equipped with excess and overflow?
- What do the Scriptures teach us regarding the role of the needy in this world?
- Is it possible to be full of grace and full of need at the same time?
I don’t have all of the answers, but I invite YOU into the conversation because our answers to these questions matter in light of our citizenship in the Kingdom of God.
I’m aware that some of us are approaching this topic feeling as if it doesn’t really apply. Not to us personally, anyways. Never having felt the pangs of intense hunger or the bone-chill that comes from spending night after night on the ground, many of us have boiled this idea of NEED down to one that looks a bit like us / them. Before we can move fully into this discussion, we’ve got to hear God’s words from Revelation 3:17:
“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”
God proceeds to express His displeasure with our attitudes of entitlement, calling for repentance, because when we think we’ve got every worldly base covered, we are most assuredly wrong. Our earthly riches constitute exactly nothing of value in God’s economy, which is what Jesus talks about when He reminds us that our real treasure is stored in heaven. This reminder, then, is not to be taken lightly. WE ARE ALL IN NEED of what ONLY GOD CAN PROVIDE. We really are all in the very same boat.
That being said, let’s take a look at some of things we can learn about NEEDING WELL from the Word of God and the experiences of God’s people.
BE IN RELATIONSHIP Much of the friction we feel when we’re in need of something that others might provide comes from our lack of connection with those who have the resources. In other words, when we ask for help from people we don’t know, they can have no idea who we are or whether our expressed need is genuine. What we become to them is a ‘case’, a ‘number’, or a ‘project’ for them to choose whether or not to participate in. IT SHOULDN’T BE THIS WAY, but you and I both know that even in Christian circles, help for the needy is much more likely to be given when the one in need is someone we already know.
Being in relationship with others should not, however, be a sort of bargaining chip that we use in order to get what we need from people. Being part of a church family or small study or fellowship group is part of God’s plan for His people! He calls us to yoke our lives together with His people in order for His Kingdom to be seen on this earth; and in order to participate in His Kingdom, we must be participating in Kingdom relationships like these. THIS is where God’s help most often comes from, as He teaches us to take care of one another, beginning with those who are closest to us in His family.
EXPRESS the NEED Pride, fear of judgment, embarrassment and shame are tempting excuses for us to use when we’re in need. Excuses for not making our needs known among God’s people with whom we are in relationship. We are ALL called to be transparent in the family of God, making our needs known as well as making our overflow visible within the circles of our families and friends.
Beautiful children of God in our country fail every day to have their most basic needs met because they fear the judgment of their ‘Christian’ friends. What we’ve done to the church to keep our own needy from expressing their needs has got to break the heart of God. Still, when we are facing needs that overwhelm our own resources and ability to provide, we must get over ourselves enough to approach our brothers and sisters who can help. Our failure to let others know what we need frustrates God’s system of balancing need with plenty. We can’t expect to receive help from others when they don’t know what we need.
RESPECT BOUNDARIES Last week on Pink Tuesday we dealt with the need for boundaries. As those in need, it is critical that we respect the boundaries of those from whom we seek help. No one person can provide for every single one of our needs, even if that would make our lives easier! We must be sensitive to what our helpers can and cannot do, and be willing to do the leg-work of putting together the right team of help in order to not cross the boundary lines of others.
To do this well requires that we do our homework! Some of our needs will be met most efficiently by utilizing help found in the community, or through organizations whose goal is to meet specific types of needs. Yes, it’s more work for us, but finding the right help from the best sources is our responsibility when we’re in need.
EXPRESS GRATITUDE It may sound like a small thing, but saying ‘Thank You’ is never a waste of our time. Writing a card or an email of thanks to a friend or church family member who has come to our aid ought to be the NORM for all of us, not the exception. Just as helping others is a natural extension of our life in Christ, sharing our gratefulness ought to be a given as well. We may be called to help all people, but I guarantee that it’s a greater joy and feels like so much less work to help those who have a grateful heart.
BE DRAWN CLOSER TO GOD God’s heart is clearly bent toward the poor, the suffering, the lonely and the outcast. Scripture repeats this theme over and over and OVER AGAIN! We are called, as believers, to champion the cause of the least of these, and when we find ourselves one of the least of these, we need to remember that in our need we find ourselves closer to the heart of God.
In this place of need that we find ourselves in, we become part of God’s work in the lives of His followers in a very specific way; we become part of the Great Opportunity given to the church. What the church will choose to do in light of the opportunity that our need presents is not up to us, but no matter how Christians respond to our need, rest assured that God’s response is ALWAYS love. He will ALWAYS draw nearer to us in our need.
LET’S REMEMBER OUR PLACE We like to be all black and white about this subject of need, don’t we? We’re either RICH or NEEDY. One of the ‘Haves’ or the ‘Have-Nots.’ The truth is, though, that even in our times of greatest need, we still have something that is needed by others. God has gifted every single one of us with the ability to meet another’s need. Maybe not a financial need. Maybe not a need that requires an investment of time that we don’t have. But even in our times of need, we have something to give back to the Kingdom of God. Let’s not allow our need to create a mentality that says we have nothing of value to give. How many times have you heard missionaries say that they traveled across the world to meet some great need, yet they returned having received more from those they helped than they could possibly have given?
BE CONTENT Finally, there’s this matter that Paul speaks of in Philippians chapter 4, about being content no matter the circumstance:
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:12-13)
Some of the most needy people you will meet aren’t even poor – they are actually rich, but they don’t know it because they aren’t content with what they have.
May we, as the family of Christ, be willing to let go of the value our society places on ‘keeping up with the Jones’s,’ choosing instead to be content with what we have. Knowing, as Paul reminds in Phil. 4:19, that “God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”