Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Make a Difference

My church promotes a fund-raising campaign each month called "Make a Difference", wherein they choose a charity to support and then collect funds for that group or that cause throughout the month. There have been food drives, help for local shelters, support for orphans and the abused, and efforts to help out disadvantaged children. While it is easy to look around the world and even our own neighborhoods and feel completely overwhelmed with the amount of suffering, efforts like this can at least provide some small level of assistance. Likely the donations do more to make us feel good about ourselves than they do to make any significant or lasting impact in the lives of those who are in distress. The sheer number of needy individuals far outweighs the amount of financial donations.

Several years ago my church sponsored an effort to support clean water in developing nations. I wrote a post called Water! Water? about some important issues that I felt needed consideration when providing humanitarian aid for developing countries. My main point was sometimes the funds that we provide can actually do more harm than good, especially if it leads to even higher birth rates in places that already cannot support their populations. I think sometimes it is easier for me to spin my wheels in some sort of academic debate than it is for me to actually help. I believe that my bulleted list of objections and issues is really just a way for me to rationalize doing nothing, to distance myself from the suffering, to put it all out of my mind with a clean conscience.

This month my church is supporting a Make a Difference to help a poor and suffering community in Central America. Again the problem from my lofty throne is one of too many people living in an inhospitable region that cannot support them. As soon as this campaign was announced I began my cynical "here we go again" self talk. This smug inner voice is too quick to dismiss others, to put me first, to give me license to make clever high-brow arguments about why they are in the situation they are in, all while continuing to do absolutely nothing. In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the parable of the sheep and the goats. The sheep are the blessed ones who step up to make a difference in the lives of those who suffer. The goats are to be rebuked.

Get out, worthless goats! You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.

I think it is time that I purposefully worked a little harder to try to make a difference.