I heard an objection recently that I’ve heard before. It’s common, I suppose, among those that would rather not. They would like to present the objection to avoid the commitment or the conviction. The objection is prevalent both inside and outside of the church.
It goes like this; “don’t we have people right here who we can help?”
It’s pulled out when talking about places like Africa but can also be applied to adoptions and even inner cities within driving distance from the suburbs. It’s a reaction, I suppose, to conviction that might otherwise compel assistance resulting in discomfort. It’s a cop-out to avoid engaging the world and most of the time the hypothetical needy which are closer aren’t going to receive any more attention than those that are far off.
The fallacy of the argument is that those who are needy are the greatest recipients when others help to meet those needs. There is temporal value in a sandwich or a water well but there is eternal value in the experience of touching the leper.
Underneath the objection is a religious and American arrogance that suggests when we go to a place to help with a thing, the people there need what we have. The arrogance is that we have it figured out and they are so much better off when they get to experience us. Lucky them. Unfortunately, however, for most of them, we’ll be busy helping the unfortunate in the suburbs a little closer to home. Tough break, Africa.
What if the benefit is in the incredible value received from sharing with someone who is truly desperate? What if the value in that exchange is eternally for the soul that gets a glimpse of where Jesus hangs out? What if, when faced with real darkness, hunger and hopelessness, our hearts break and the result is that He is able to actually overtake our selfishness with the result being our personal transformation? What if the further, harder, hungrier, we deal with leads us to diminishing comfort and the result is eyes to see the Kingdom of God, here and now?
Help the widow around the corner. Feel sorry for and maybe even assist with the poor kid in your kid’s class. Don’t do it at the expense of the eternal riches that are increasingly abundant in every extreme step taken to reach the least of the least of the least of these.