Failing at the Food Bank

Last night as I sat and chatted with a lady at our church (one who is not so well off and is in need of some local services), she mentioned her volunteer work at the food bank. And then I realized that I, a pastor’s wife and community member, had no idea where the local food bank was located.

Yes, I have some vague concept of direction from my house, and at one point I looked for volunteer opportunities, which aren’t available during my available hours, but I couldn’t have directed somewhere there if they needed it. As I have chewed on this today, I wondered: “Am I bad Christian and pastor’s wife because of this? Am I lousy because I haven’t been there — or the local soup kitchen? Couldn’t I be doing more?”

Part of me says yes. There is an obligation, if you will, for Christians to help the poor, the widows, the fatherless, etc. The book of James (2:17) notes that “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” An obligation for those of us with more to help those with less.

But part of me retorted that it was okay not to know, not to take on yet another thing, and not to fill guilty. While it would be helpful to others in need if I could point them to the right spot, I am giving back with my time, money, and resources to help those less fortunate.

As I chewed on this, something came to mind that is part of what my husband and I are teaching to kids in our Children’s Quizzing program. With the young Church, there were so many believers that it was natural to expect that some folks needed a helping hand. Did all the believers drop everything? No! If you want to read the full story, check out Acts 6:1-7. Rather, seven men were selected to oversee distribution of food so that the other believers could focus their attention on prayer and ministry of the word.

This is not saying that we should all bow out of helping the needy. Rather, each of us should use our specific talents where God leads us to use them. This could be in children’s programs, musical gifts, ministry to the elderly, administration, encouragement (I know several people who are SO GOOD at this and it’s quite a blessing!), helping the homeless, listening to folks in a soup kitchen, sewing clothes, giving of money so that people can purchase necessities, and so on. And whatever we do, we are do it heartily (as Colossians 3:23 points out).

As much as this calls for us to give our all in what we do, it doesn’t say to give our all to 10,000 different places. I am a person who is pulled in so many different directions. I have ministry things I do — some visible, some behind the scenes, some for my family, some for my church, some for my community, and some for people around the world — and I’m not sure it would be right to add yet another thing because I can’t give it my all. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to — I’m simply out of capacity.

In reflecting on this, I thought about people around me. Would I want a mechanic to be so distracted with another job or hobby that he didn’t give his all on my vehicle? Think about the folks in our lives who do something and do it well. Would we ask for anything less? Then let’s not create pressure for people to take on so much that they can’t do their best.

There’s the 10:90 rule. It means that 10% of people are doing 90% of the work. And simple math says that’s not right. Try making it 5:95? It doesn’t get better. We shouldn’t expect this of other people, and we shouldn’t expect it of ourselves. My words of wisdom — for myself, as much as for all of you — are this: If you’re giving all you have, accept who you are, and be at peace knowing that it is enough.

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