In a broken world, there are endless needs. So how do we decide who to support, who to serve, who to lead, and who to give our time and resources to?
There is no hard and fast rule about such things in the Bible. We are told to take care of our families (1 Timothy 5:8), we are told to help support other Christians (Romans 12:13), and we are also told to show hospitality to strangers (Hebrews 13:2). But to what degree should we offer the help since the needs of the world can be endless?
Normally We Should Serve According to What We Have Been Given
When answering the questions, “Who should we serve first in our lives as Christians?”, we must realize there are no formula’s with the Holy Spirit. Sometimes he will lead us to do things that will be a sacrifice to our household so we can offer a major blessing to someone we barely know.
This, however, would most likely be an exception to the Spirit’s leading in our lives and not the norm; for the word of God, written by the Holy Spirit, has laid out a practical way to guide us in our levels of responsibilities to others.
Luke 12:48 states, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” Romans 12:6-8 explains that God has given each of us different gifts and we should use them “in proportion to our faith” which “God has assigned” to each one of us. Deuteronomy 16:17 (NIV) says, “Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you.”
Therefore, it’s safe to say that the more significant the relationship we have with someone (which is a blessing from the Lord), the greater our responsibility is to him or her. The more equity God allows us to have in someone’s life, the more responsible we are to that person.
Relationship Translates to Responsibility
There is no relationship as significant on planet earth than that of husband and wife. Therefore, if married, your spouse must be your top priority. No one is more dependent upon you for their survival than your children. Therefore, your children must be your next top priority. On and on this pattern can be generally applied to life.
Pastors have a greater responsibility to serve the members of their church because they have a more significant relationship with them compared to the Christian down the street who attends a different church; likewise the member of that church has greater responsibility to follow that leader compared to the leader of the church down the street.
Paul applies this principle in Galatians 6:10, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” The more “opportunity” God has given you, the more responsibility we have in fulfilling the good he has planned for us. That means you have a greater responsibility to be a good witness to the person you work next to every day compared to the person you meet on Saturday nights during your church’s street evangelism ministry. If we never share our faith with the person we see five days a week for years but are only willing to share with people we know we will never see again, something is wrong.
Additionally, since we are connected in greater ways with believers compared to our fellow humans, we are to do good for Christians in greater proportion (“especially to those who are of the household of faith”).
Serve Anyone You Are Able to Serve While Remaining Joyful and Willing
Lastly, we should serve anyone we are able to help if we are willing to do it and we are joyful to do it.
For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have. Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need.” (2 Corinthians 8:12-14)
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
God expects us to give out of what we have, not out of what we don’t have. We are called to serve willingly. We are called to serve joyfully. Therefore, when asking the questions, “Who should we serve first as Christians?”, we should serve anyone we are able to serve if we can do it joyfully and willingly.
I believe these principles also lead us to serve according to people’s needs. If your family as plenty, God leads us to give more to those who do not. After we have taken care of our responsibilities, those who are in the greatest need should be those who we serve first.
In summary, we are called to obey the Spirit, and the Spirit will lead us to serve people we don’t know. But the Spirit is normally going to lead us to serve in a greater capacity those we are responsible for in a greater way. He will lead us to serve joyfully, willingly, according to what we do have rather than what we don’t have, and according the the needs of those we are able to help.