Setting Priorities

It took me a while to realize that my friends were deeply upset. In our Sunday morning worship we had just prayed for a team heading out on a service trip to Costa Rica. Those dedications are generally a feel-good experience. But my friends were troubled. They felt our priorities should be closer to home. Why are we sending people to Costa Rica when we have plenty of needy people in our own town?

I feel some sympathy for their point of view. We ought to be much more engaged with our local community. It’s not right to skip over local needs while heading to far-off places, which we do sometimes. It can be easier to get involved thousands of miles away than it is locally.

Nevertheless, I don’t think we ought to prioritize local needs. First, all human beings are made in God’s image and he cares for them all. As we are his agents, and members of his worldwide family, we are not restricted by geography. The whole earth is the Lord’s, and ours as well.

Second, prioritization can easily turn to elitism. Because where are the boundaries? Should I prioritize my street, where everybody owns a home? If I live in a wealthy community should I prioritize my town, which has very few poor people? Should I prioritize Americans, who are all wealthy compared to the average African?

Third, Jesus addressed this question rather plainly. A man asked him, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus responded with the story of the Good Samaritan. The message is unmistakable: “neighbor” is somebody outside your tribe, somebody as far off as can be imagined. The Good Samaritan doesn’t say, “I need to use my resources to help needy Samaritans.” He responds to need as he encounters it. So we, in this globalized, media-driven culture, can’t help encountering wounded people by the side of the road in places far from our home.

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4 Responses to “Setting Priorities”

  1. John Richardson Says:

    Tim,

    As a missions person, I feel the Bible is very clear about this in Acts
    …. you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8

    It says “AND” not “OR” we are to serve our neighborhood AND to the far ends of the earth.

    We should being doing ALL!!!

    I think it is up to Church’s to decide their priorities as to where they may put a bit more emphasis, but not to do one and not the other.

    Our mission efforts MUST include spreading the Gospel, our command is to take the Gospel…….NOT just humanitarian efforts. Yes we need to do humanitarian works at times – however our primary commission is to spread the Gospel.
    We are not the “Red Cross, etc.” (doing humanitarian works only – nothing wrong with humanitarian works).

    We are Christians who have been given the Great Commission to spread the Gospel to ALL Nations.

    Matt 24:14 Jesus makes it clear about our task toward fulfillment of the end times…. and this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. The end times will not come until we have told all nations (nations are translated as people groups vs countries); there are over 7,000 nations/people groups still unreached (less than 2% Christians).

    Will we be able to face God and say we have done our part towards fulfilling the Great Commission as He Commanded us to tell ALL Nations.

    John

  2. kathy Says:

    I was part of the team that went to Costa Rica. An amazing time. We got back last night and as I was still on Tico time I served our local homeless this morning at Catholic Charities. We serve breakfast on Friday mornings at 6:30 near their family homeless shelter, and mainly serve the still on the street homeless, as well as the men and women that live in their Samuel Jones shelter. There is a powerful work happening through Catholic Charities to the vulnerable in our own community. Was nice to be serving far away, and also great to be doing my regular serving with those in my own city. the folks of Costa Rica that we served had so little and were so blessed by what we brought and shared. We were blessed by their love, joy and strong faith. They live with such joy with so little. We can learn from them. The folks this morning were grateful for the socks and jackets we had, as well as the wonderful oatmeal, coffee and hot chocolate and milk.

  3. David Weinschrottt Says:

    As Kathy says – I think we shouldn’t need to choose between far away or close by. One clear advantage of close by is that one doesn’t “parachute in” and then leave without forming lasting relationships. Another point that has challenged me: it is one thing to serve someone over a counter or from a large pot of soup, but another thing to sit down and eat and form friendships. One learns much more about oneself in a two-way relationship where the possibility that you will also be taught and served is present.

    • kathy Says:

      Even though my mission experience was far away, it is the beginning of many lasting relationships. I plan to go back, as well as have been adopted into my host family. We are part of facebook so will stay connected. My church has an emphasis on relational ministry, and we plan to send a group there again, which I may be part of. I do plan to go back as an immersion Spanish learner and will stay again with the same host family for a longer period of time. We ate many meals together and have established the start of a good, and lifelong friendship and I now have a very large family in Costa Rica as the entire family of my host family have welcomed me into their lives. I am excited about a great way to work on my Spanish in an immersion setting and hope to be fluent at some point for my work and ministry in the US. We were able to help an indiginous group that has so little. Even the poorest in the US have way more.

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