“It’s all about widows and orphans!” Our pastor spoke with passion as he introduced the new direction our church would be taking. “The Bible makes it clear in James 1:27 that ministry to widows and orphans is the closest to God’s heart, so that’s what we’ll be doing.”
“May God judge those who have the Bible in their own languages or who have the same in their own houses if they do not obey the commandment of Jesus Christ and if they do not help those who have no Bibles either in their houses or in their own languages!” These strong words were taken verbatim from the website of a ministry dedicated to providing Bibles in the native tongues of India. Clearly, they believe every Christian should be involved in Bible translation.
“I don’t mean to offend you,” my friend explained, “I know you’re involved in world missions, but I truly believe my ministry is more important. Before these babies can come to Christ, they have to be born. I’m sure that the Pro-life movement is God’s number one priority!”
I agree wholeheartedly that these are all important ministries. We, as the body of Christ, should be involved in all of these things, and many more besides. But are any of these the most important? Does God really have a hierarchy of ministries? Are some of the ways we serve more important, more strategic, than others? And if they are, can we, as mere mortals, determine which is which?
Does God have a “top ten” list of jobs for us to do? What if everyone decided that because God saved mankind on the ark, we should all go out and purchase some gopher wood? (I can just see us asking at Home Depot for lumber by the cubit.) Or maybe the most important ministries are saved for God’s favorite believers… or those He considers the best workers. Do the rest of us get second-best ministries? Try applying that principle to those who go to prison—or are martyred—f or their beliefs!
Trying to decide what to do based on some hallowed priority list is a sure way to end up paralyzed, unable to make a commitment because something else better may be right around the corner. And if we are sure that the one particular ministry where we serve is more valuable than the others, won’t we conclude that God must love us best?
It seems better to me to seek God’s will for ourselves, without worrying about what anyone else is doing. What abilities did God create in me? What passions and interests? What skills have I learned? What am I good at? What do I love to do? Am I asking God where He wants me? Am I listening, willing to hear His answer?
There are plenty of roles in God’s kingdom for everyone. Some are surely called to be cross-cultural missionaries. Others are appointed to feed the sheep at home. Some need to feed orphans, others should advocate for the babies in their mother’s wombs. There are as many jobs to fill as there are believers created to fill them. The most important question is not what are we doing, but are we obedient?
My husband’s ministry proclaims God’s Lordship over the high tech industry. He’s completely committed to the idea that God wants to be exalted in the world of business and computers. There was a time when I wished God had called him to something I deemed more “important”—perhaps feeding hungry children, or providing for the poor. But God uniquely equipped Pete to do what he’s doing and then assigned him to the task. I was wrong to wish otherwise.
We’ve all heard the parable about God weaving a tapestry out of our lives. He sees the beautiful picture on the front, but all we can see is the messy tangle of threads on the back. Even at that, we only see those in our immediate vicinity. If God has created us to be a blue thread, who are we to ask to be yellow or green? If he wants to weave us in here, we have no place asking to be woven in there instead.
As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12, “There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.” We are one body with many parts. All our contributions will be significant as long as we allow Jesus to be our head.