In 2016, over 500,000 people in the US were recorded as homeless.
Over 1/5 of those were children.
More than 300 million people in the world suffer depression.
In 2015, 43.1 million Americans lived in poverty.
With such overwhelming need in the world, Christians often think:
- “How can we possibly fix it all?”
- “Does what little good I do even make a dent in all this need?”
- “I can’t make a big enough difference in the world- it’s hopeless.”
And it can seem hopeless. It can seem like we shouldn’t even try, because there’s no way we can make all this heartache go away.
That is, until we realize that God never told us to fix it all. He never placed the burden of curing the entire world’s problems on any one human being’s shoulders. No one person or organization can eradicate poverty or rescue humanity from depression. When we expect more of ourselves than God does, we set ourselves up for failure.
So what does God expect from us?
He expects us to recognize the value of one.
In God’s view, one person is worth no less than a hundred. Didn’t he prove this in his parable of the shepherd leaving the ninety-nine sheep in search of one lost?
You can’t give hope to every person facing depression in your community. But you can give hope to one. You can’t provide housing for all the homeless in your city, but you can offer a meal to one.
Perhaps you dream about the day you’ll be wealthy enough to sweep all the needs right out of your community, to pay for someone’s entire mission trip, to purchase new clothes and toys for all the needy children in your church’s bus ministry. While these are noble dreams, right now that’s all they are—dreams.
Maybe one day you will be able to do all that. But no one, not even you, knows that for certain. We can’t live in the future, because there are needs waiting for us now. And if your life were to tragically end this week, would you have done anything to help the needs that are pressing all around you now?
As Ann Voskamp so eloquently puts it:
Every day you can do one thing that you wish you could do for everyone. We will be known for our actual fruits, not the intentions of our imaginations.
While you can’t save the world today, you can make a world of difference to one person. Perhaps you can’t fund someone’s whole mission trip, but you can provide them with a practical gift they will need on their trip. Maybe you can’t donate thousands of dollars to your local charity, but you can donate valuable hours of your time.
How can you know that you would live out all your noble dreams “when you can afford it,” if you aren’t giving what you can afford now?
God Himself called us out on this faulty thinking, when He said:
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
-1 John 3:17,18 (ESV)
The problem isn’t what we can’t do. The problem is that we aren’t doing what we can.
Because we think it’s too small, too insignificant, not truly world-changing. Sure, you can’t change the whole world, but you can surely change the world for someone.
It’s as small as a second chance, a cup of cold water, a homemade meal, or telling someone who’s never been believed in that you believe. It’s making a difference in the lives of your neighbor, the single mom in your church, the kid in your class who never smiles, the man begging on the street.
The more we give, support, counsel and visit, the more we receive, not just similar gifts, but the Lord Himself. To go to the poor is to go to the Lord.
– Henri Nouwen
No, you may not be wealthy. You may not have loads of free time. You may have very real to-do lists, and you may need to save for your next rent check or your kid’s college tuition.
God isn’t asking you to shell out tons of money or quit work to volunteer full-time. He’s asking you to do what you can. Because we can all do one thing for one person every day.
We can listen to our kids a little more closely, take the trash out without being asked, forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it, show up at someone’s door with food and a hug.
Never underestimate the value of your service to one. Hasn’t God proven time and time again what he can do with a small offering?
- When the poor widow of Zarephath fed Elijah before herself or her son, her handful of flour lasted until the drought ended.
- When the New Testament boy gave up his lunch for Jesus, it fed thousands.
- When another poor widow gave a penny (her last bit of money) to the temple, Jesus immediately used her act of faith to teach his disciples and, ultimately, the rest of the world by including her story in the Bible. He declared she had given more than all the rich people had.
God sees your service. And He will reward you for valuing people, one by one.
If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
-Isaiah 58:10,11 (ESV)
Remember what Henri Nouwen said? “To go to the poor is to go to the Lord.” In light of this amazing thought, we should all ask ourselves what Ann Voskamp asks:
How many times have I missed Him? You miss Him when you question who’s needy enough to give to, who warrants the risk. He comes as the homeless guy, the refugee, the child drinking filthy water—and you get to decide.
Are you going to fill your life with more stuff, more safety, or more God? What the world says is weak and small may be where Christ is offering Himself to you most of all—and why do we want to be big people when God shows up as the little people nobody’s got time for?
You miss Jesus when you aren’t looking for His two disguises: the smallest and the servant.
(Paragraph breaks are mine)
Our small acts of kindness certainly don’t seem small to the person receiving them. And they don’t seem small to the Lord either. May we all stop underestimating the value of one and make every difference we can in this world.
Thanks for reading! If something inside you was moved by this post, please share it with your friends to spread the word about the value of one.
And if you enjoyed this post, you may also like Time Is Not Meant to Be Saved; It’s Meant to Be Broken.
One thought on “The Value of One: Why You Don’t Have to Save the World”
So very true! Little is much when God is in it, as the song goes. Sometimes those “little” things are what people remember about us the most.
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