The tricky part is that in the beginning a need-based life and a love-based life may look exactly the same. The end result is often similar; a life that is outwardly focused on others. The difference is seen over time. Whereas a love-based life will continue to grow in service and generosity, a need-based life will eventually burn out, often into bitterness.
That is why God tells us to focus on Him and His righteousness instead of our needs.
Here are 3 reasons that need makes a horrible master:
- They are endless. Whether you are trying to manage your own personal desires for food, clothing, shelter, and "getting my kids to be quiet for one minute" or you are looking at issues in the world like hunger, orphans, and child trafficking... you will never find the "end" of need.
- They do not prioritize. Needs do not line up in front of you in a nice orderly way, taking turns as it were so that you can meet them one at a time. Instead they all scream at you at once, each demanding your attention and action... all the time. (Think of small children at dinner time.)
- They are motivated by guilt or selfishness. Children make a good illustration here as well. When I am simply focused on the needs my children are screaming at me, my main motivation is either guilt over having left them alone for so long, or a self-centered desire for them to just stop screaming at me. It is often the same with things like homelessness or hungry children in Africa. It is not so much that I am motivated to care about them as I just want them to stop getting in my face, or I want to stop feeling bad that I don't... feel more about their issues.
My desire is not that we would be less concerned about the needs around us. Neither is it that we would use a man-made system of focus and action to begin attacking needs in a rational, logical way. It is, instead, that we would begin with a different motivation altogether.
I believe conversations that begin with, "There is so much need, what can we do?" are bound to lead to disillusioned, burned out need-meeters.
I want my conversation to begin, "In view of the great love that has been poured out upon us, what must we do?"
How about you; have you seen ways in which need can be a horrible master?