Can you really serve someone and not meet their greatest need?

This is a question that I’ve been pondering for a long time. Is it really possible to serve someone you care deeply about, but not meet their greatest need?   I mean, don’t you really have to meet their greatest need in order to truly serve somebody?

Service without a savior

The church of Jesus Christ was created to bring God glory by changing the culture with the Gospel.   It’s the Good News of Jesus Christ that takes its roots deep inside the culture and eventually brings lasting change.

Giving money to feed the hungry is important. Meeting someone’s basic medical needs is essential. Food, clothing, and shelter are the basic needs of every human being. You can’t exist long with out these three.  These are immediate needs. They must be solved immediately.  So when a person is in need of food clothing or shelter we must be willing to respond to those needs. But what happens if you only meet the needs for food, clothing, and shelter?

Meeting the ultimate need

Just because food, clothing, and shelter are immediate needs doesn’t make them the ultimate need. Suppose I give somebody food and then they die from exposure to the elements… did I really help them?   Suppose I build a hut for a village in Africa but they all die of starvation inside this well-built hut… did I really help them? Suppose I provide a safe place for someone who’s homeless on the streets tonight and they die from medical needs… did I really help them? In fact, what is a person’s greatest need?

The Bible makes it absolutely clear, there is an afterlife. There is a very real Heaven and a very real Hell. So even if I meet every need that someone may have here on earth and they die and end up in hell… did I really help them? There is a big difference between meeting an immediate need – food, clothing, and shelter– and meeting somebody’s ultimate need… where they will spend eternity.

Living with people in need

One of the things of that makes the Church of Jesus Christ different than the United Way or the Peace Corps is we meet immediate needs so that we can address the ultimate need. I’m all for feeding the hungry and sheltering those in need-  but not at the expense of their soul.

In order for the church to be able to meet people in need you have to be comfortable around them.   It’s dangerous for the church to isolate themselves from the needs of their community. It’s dangerous for church people to only be around church people.   The church has to become comfortable being around people in need. When the church is living around unbelievers she has the opportunity to meet ultimate needs.

Further reading