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Meeting Human Need(s)

The effects of Christianity have made the United States one of the most humanitarian-conscious countries in the world. While Hindu cultures view human suffering as a means of atoning for past wrongs and therefore shouldn't be interfered with, nations influenced by the teachings of Jesus display greater compassion for human life. That's why it's common to find Christian organizations leading the way in things like disaster relief, caring for orphans, and providing medical aide for the poor and disadvantaged. The way of Jesus is to value human life because each is created in the image of God.  


Yet that value goes far beyond the meeting of only physical and emotional needs. While we frequently find Jesus meeting the most basic of human needs, something far greater drew Him from the splendor of heaven to the limitations of earth. This greater need is the focus of His conversation with a woman at a well in Samaria:


"Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never be thirsty; but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life.”   John 4:13-14


Jesus is saying there are two realities: one temporary, one eternal. One seen, one unseen. One that lasts only a few years, and one that lasts forever. While meeting basic human needs is essential, it is short-lived. But breathing life into a dead soul through the gospel changes a person forever.  


As we track Jesus through the pages of the Gospels, several things stand out as we watch His meeting of physical human needs. First, it was experienced by those He encountered in His everyday life. Secondly, He nearly always engaged in personal interaction with those He helped. And thirdly, it often led to deeper conversations that went far beyond the physical. His healing of a blind man in John 9 led to a conversation that changed his eternity. The same is true of the demonic in Luke 8 and the paralytic in Mark 2. Jesus used His meeting of physical needs to lead into conversations of the soul.


One of the dangers we face as Christians is becoming just another of the many humanitarian groups, businesses, and NGOs that step in to meet the human needs of our community. It is one dimensional: physical. This is especially true around the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons when it's all about food and gifts for the under-resourced. We write checks—or, easier yet, use an electronic funds transfer app—drop a few presents or cans of food into donation boxes, and feel good about ourselves. It's all very altruistic. Yet we miss the Jesus piece of human contact and life-giving conversations that could lead to meeting the greatest need of all: an introduction to the grace and wonder of the living God.  


Let me encourage each of us to think about how we can meet the needs of people in a way that is a greater reflection of the heart of God, not only during the holidays but every day. The place to start is in the framework of our everyday lives: work, the neighborhood, school, and those we rub shoulders with at our kid's sports events. It's uncanny how often needs surface when we take the time to engage in conversations, and meeting those needs is a great way to open the door to something greater. After all, it worked for Jesus.


Several years ago, a half-dozen smiling people showed up at our house to clean debris from our yard after a hurricane. When the task was completed, they asked if we had anything going on they could pray for, and after praying, gave us a Bible. It wasn't a bit pushy and went beyond the mere picking up of fallen branches like so many others were doing. It opened the door for a God conversation.


This should never be an OR but an AND. Write the checks, drop things off at donation locations, and help those you'll never see. It's good and helpful because every life matters.  Yet while many groups deliver food, clothing, and gifts, only those who have been transformed by the grace of God can deliver the life-giving message that has the power to change a life forever.  


So let's not forget to add an "s" to "human need" to include not only the physical but the spiritual. Because the greatest need of all—a forever relationship with the living God—comes only through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. And that's one message that can only be delivered by those who have experienced the power of His love.




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