LeadingSmart

Practical Stuff for Church Leaders

Don't Worry About the Needs of the World

I've been thinking a lot about the principle of proximity.

Here is Tim's definition:

  • I have a greater responsibility to care for those I'm close to than others do who are not as close.
  • I have a greater responsibility to care for those I'm close to than I do for those I am not close to.

God so loved the world, but I am to love my neighbor. Jesus healed people in front of Him. There were probably hundreds of thousands of sick and crippled and diseased people who were alive when Jesus walked the earth--and yet the ones He healed were the ones who He actually met.

Sometimes the excessive needs in the world overwhelm us and shut us down. And we do nothing. I'm suggesting you don't need to focus on the needs of the world. That is God's job. Just focus on the ones in front of you--the ones that you know about and that He can use you to meet.

As I think about the principle of proximity, I come to these conclusions...

  • It is more my responsibility to care for my neighbors than it is for others who do not live as close.
  • It is more my responsibility to care for my family than it is for others who are not in my family.
  • Like the Good Samaritan, there will be times when I will cross paths with someone I have never met who is in need. At that moment, the principle of proximity compels me to listen to God and see how I can meet a need.
  • Because of the principle of proximity, Faith and I set aside a percentage of our money every month to be available to meet needs. It is how we could help Cherise get to Africa, the residents of Monroe Circle study the Bible, kids in our community get to summer camp, and the ministry of Joppa in downtown Des Moines.
  • I pay attention to my passion and sometimes ask God to let me cross paths with people or organizations who I can partner with to meet needs in that area.

You might be thinking, "Well, if we all operated that way, no one would ever help the people in India or Sudan, because we would never be in close proximation to those people." That is why giving to my local church is so important to me. My tithe (10%) to my church allows me to give way beyond myself. It allows a community of people to pool their resources and help meet needs of people they will never know. It is how I've helped plant churches and drill wells and train children in southern India. It is how I was able to help with the earthquake in Haiti and the hurricane in New Orleans. The principle of proximity would never have made it possible for me to help in those locations--but my commitment to live in community through a local church enables me to also be a part of meeting needs way beyond my location.

So the principle of proximity does not negate all other principles--but I do think it is worth considering.

One of the teachers of the law came and...asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this...'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:30-31