I recently entered a contest you can read about here.
This is my essay:
Christians ought to be at the forefront of the battle against poverty and hunger. That statement may be bold, but I believe it’s biblical. James 2:15-16 says, “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about this physical needs, what good is it?” That same author tells us, “religion that God our father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” (James 1:27a)
Growing up in the Christian culture, I was often taught that the most effective way to witness was to be different from the world. “Make your school your mission field,” teenagers are told. That’s all well and good, but there needs to be more. We can’t just avoid what the world does; we need to do things they don’t. Why? Because as Christians, we have been called to go.
Matthew 28:19 starts out, “Therefore, go…” (emphasis mine). It includes action verbs like make, baptizing and teaching. Jesus was active in the physical needs of people. All throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus preaching and healing. When He fed the 5,000, Jesus didn’t just see them hungry and pray for their nourishment—He provided it.
Taking care of people’s physical needs takes on many different roles. It could mean serving a meal at a homeless shelter. Maybe it means giving your life to working with AIDS children in Africa. It could mean supporting missionaries with prayer and money. While I believe that it is good for all Christians, regardless of their careers, to go on a mission trip, I also believe that we must make missions an integral part of our daily lives, regardless of where we live. Doing this, however, does not require that we abandon everything and live in a village in eastern Africa. It depends on where God has called you.
The church in Acts 6 had to deal with this issue. When the Grecian Jews complained because their widows were not getting enough food, the apostles did something about it. They appointed men to take charge of the physical needs so they could continue to feed people’s spiritual needs.
The Son of God doesn’t have kind words for those who failed to care for people’s physical needs. “For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat…I needed clothes and you did not clothe me…I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” (Matthew 26:42-43; 45)
We are commanded to reach “the least of these.” In many countries, they are the people who aren’t physically able to go and see drama groups. They can’t read a tract. We must devote our efforts to the least and the most. Dig a well for a small village in Haiti and then tell them about the Living Water. Don’t tell them God wants to fill their souls while their stomachs are filled with pangs of hunger.
What we think of as “typical” mission trip activities such as drama/mimes, passing out tracts are good, but they’re not enough. On the flip side, building a house, yet not sharing the Gospel is equally inadequate.
If you call yourself a Christian, you are commanded to be like Christ. He says to go and minister to the physical needs of people, which is something He Himself lived out. As followers of Christ, we are all called to the mission field and must do no less.