There are so many ways that we can be involved in our communities. But could some ways we serve be more helpful than others? After all, no person understands a community’s needs more than its people. That’s why the best solutions to a community’s problems rise from within. And at Life.Church, we listen to the neighbors and community organizations who know the needs, then step into long-term relationships to create lasting change. This excerpt from the Neighbor: Empower Communities Bible Plan helps us learn some of the best ways to serve your community.
Imagine a close friend’s birthday is coming up. You have the perfect gift in mind, so you wrap it carefully and eagerly wait until you get to see their reaction.
The day arrives, and you present the gift to your friend. Much to your surprise, their reaction is anything but excitement.
Confused and a little embarrassed, you ask what they think. A little flustered, they reply that while it was a very generous and kind gift, they can’t accept it.
Now you’re starting to get frustrated—you don’t understand why your perfectly good intentions have resulted in such an awkward interaction. In fact, you’ve heard your friend complain about their phone for weeks now, so you thought you’d surprise them with a brand new one for their birthday.
After a little prompting, you finally discover that your friend has been saving up for a different phone for weeks now, and they don’t think they can afford the monthly payments that will come with the one you bought. What’s more, they really don’t want to go through the hassle of switching phone numbers and phone companies.
Turns out, your “thoughtful” gift was actually a bit more on the thoughtless side.
Can you relate? Maybe you’ve given a gift that had a less-than-ideal response. Or maybe you’ve received a gift from someone else that was wildly misguided.
At some point, we’ve all been there. And we often have the same approach when it comes to helping others. We think we know what’s best for someone else, but instead of asking, we start assuming—taking matters into our own hands.
And while sometimes we can be helpful without much information, many times forging ahead without finding out more can result in unintentionally hurtful consequences.
Let’s go back to the gift example. You’re not a bad friend, and your friend isn’t ungrateful. You simply gave your friend something you assumed they wanted without considering whether it was actually beneficial to them.
But what if there’s a better way to live? What if there’s a way to take action while preserving the dignity of the people we want to support?
There’s a better way to bring about change, and it’s called community empowerment. We see it modeled throughout Scripture, and it’s an approach that helps us recognize that communities change from the inside out.
Today, take some time to consider this question: In what ways am I assuming I know what’s best for others, instead of taking the time to ask them?
Pray: God, I realize that sometimes I assume I know what’s best for others instead of asking them. Give me the humility to recognize that I don’t always know the answers, but I can always come to You and listen to others. In Jesus’ name, amen.