When I came back from my first trip to Bolivia I was useless. It wrecked me. After spending the better part of a month face-to-face with the harsh reality of poverty (and the church being good news in the midst of it), I found it hard to return to normal life here at home. I was not much fun to be around…

I remember one day our family stopped for gas and my children immediately asked for “slushies.” I quickly got angry, told them “no,” and snapped at them saying “You don’t need to get something every time we stop somewhere….you should be thankful for all that you have!” Like I said… not much fun to be around.

My response in those weeks after returning home was driven by guilt. I saw all that our family and society had and was paralyzed by guilt. This same type of thing can happen when we consider the many needs in our own neighbourhoods. Needless to say, I don’t think that this is the most helpful response.

A better response I think, and one that I eventually came to, is to ask how we can use what we have to serve others. 1 Peter 4:10 tells us that “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” This is in the context of spiritual gifts but I think the principle also applies more broadly.

Rather than feeling guilty for what we have, we can instead be thankful, recognize that it is all the Lord’s, and ask Him to help us use what we have to serve others.

This raises two important questions for us to ask if we want to join God in changing our neighbourhood(s):

  • What has God given me? And,
  • How can I best use what I have been given to serve others?

What gifts, skills and abilities do you have? Maybe you a good teacher or are mechanically inclined… Maybe you are athletic or are a great cook… Regardless of the specifics, you can use your skills and abilities to serve others.

What financial resources are at your disposal? The reality is that most of us are very rich by world standards. How are we using our wealth to serve others? Are we being tightfisted or openhanded?

What material possessions do you have? A car? A house or apartment? A boat or summer property? A kitchen stocked with food? How are you using the things you possess to serve others?

Instead of feeling guilty for what we have let’s be openhanded and thankful people who recognize that it all belongs to the Lord and then let’s be people who use what we have to serve others.

– Adrian (@AdrianDGardner)