Rob Buckingham's Blog

You Can’t Meet Every Need

Have you ever felt utterly overwhelmed by all the needs around you? I certainly have!  Whether they are needs in your family, church, this nation or other countries, it’s easy to be overcome by the seemingly endless ways that you can help others.  This is often compounded by a Christian worldview which encourages us to help those in need. So, who should we support?

Firstly, realise that you can’t help everyone, that you can’t meet every need – but that doesn’t mean you do nothing.  Jesus demonstrated this when he visited the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem. At this pool “a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralysed.”  [1] By the time John wrote his gospel, there were no disabled people left at the pool. The reason for that is not known, maybe Jesus eventually healed them all, or perhaps the use of the area was changed over time.  The Bible tells us that Jesus visited this pool once, attended to one man who’d been an invalid for 38 years, and left.  The inference in the story is that Jesus took pity on him because he had been unwell for so long.  But what about all the others?  Jesus could have met every need but, for whatever reason, he chose not to.  Maybe he was giving us a life lesson that we should not feel duty-bound to meet every demand we encounter.

“You can’t meet every need – but that doesn’t mean you do nothing!”  I’ve been gripped by this truth for many years.  It’s easy to see the massive problems and be immobilised by them.  You can’t help every homeless person in Australia, but what can you do?   You can’t help every orphan in Africa, but what can you do?  It was this line of thinking that caused us to start a Forever Home in Johannesburg (through Acres of Love [2]) over a decade ago.  There are an estimated 3.7 million orphans in South Africa. I’d love to help them all but I can’t, but that doesn’t mean I do nothing. We have led our church to support well over a dozen of these children. Some have been adopted into loving families, some have grown up and gained a good education and employment. Others are still in our home and doing so well.  We’ve been able to give them a future and a hope. We’ve made a difference to them.

Secondly, recognise you can do so much more when you work in a community with others.  This year, I participated in Sleep at the G with 25 others from Bayside Church.  Through one night of slight discomfort we were able to raise $33,660 for Melbourne City Mission’s work with homeless people.  I could have done it on my own, but it was so much better working with others. We had fun, we got to know each other better and came to a deeper understanding of some of the challenges faced by homeless people in our city.  The author of Hebrews was correct when he said, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” [3]

Next, have a clear understanding of what you are passionate about as well as the way God has gifted you.  If you don’t have a clear vision, you will spread yourself (and your resources) too thinly.  Over the years, we’ve had some people join Bayside Church from other churches and they BYO Missionary with them.  They then tried to get us to buy into their missionary and support them. I did this a couple of times, but it didn’t go well as it didn’t align with our vision.  As a younger leader, I felt obliged to help, probably because of an unsanctified desire to please people.  These days I’m not such a pushover.  I have a clear vision of who and when to help because “You can’t meet every need.”

I also prefer to help through people I know and trust.  Individuals I speak with, especially those outside the church, want to help others but they are not sure how to help or who to support, and they want to make sure the money they give gets to those they give it to.  So, it’s best to help others either through people you know or organisations you trust.  Last week we heard from a friend in Indonesia that her staff members in Lombok were all homeless because of the earthquake.  Right now, all of these people are living in her back garden because they have nowhere else to go.  She mentioned to us that she wanted to raise $5,000 to repair and rebuild their homes, and so we brought the need to our church community.  Last weekend, all of the gold coin donations at our coffee cart, plus the sale of Brownie’s (made by a church member) raised $3,060.20.  The money was sent to our friend today, and we know that these funds will be used 100% to help those it’s been given for.

Always connect wisdom to compassion. There are those who prey on kind-hearted people and make up stories to get money. We have a policy at Bayside Church never to hand out cash, and we only help those from the broader community who have been referred by a reputable social welfare organisation. You can’t meet every need, but do your best to make sure those you do help are genuine.  As Jesus said, “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” [4]

Finally, don’t forget to look after yourself; applying your own facemask before you help others with theirs.  Compassion fatigue is a real risk to those who are kind.  You can spend so much time and energy caring for others that you neglect yourself.  The apostle Paul put it this way, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”  [5] But taking an interest in others doesn’t mean you ignore your own interests. There’s a difference between selfishness and selflessness.  American humourist Sam Levenson said, “As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” It’s wise advice.

 

[1] John 5:4

[2] https://acresoflove.org

[3] Hebrews 10:24

[4] Matthew 10:16

[5] Philippians 2:4

 


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