Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 135; 145, Job 40:1-24, Acts 15:36-16:5, John 11:55-12:8
A friend of mine volunteers a lot of her time working with feral cats. It’s not uncommon for people to dismissively ask why she wastes her efforts on stray animals instead of humans. Besides making unfounded assumptions, these questions rise from an attitude of scarcity which assumes one person’s priorities must be robbing resources from another’s.
Paul and Barnabas successfully worked together to build up the church in Antioch. After a while, Paul suggested they take a journey to visit the cities where they had previously spread the gospel. Barnabas wanted to take along Mark, but Paul objected because earlier Mark had deserted them to return to Jerusalem. They couldn’t come to an agreement, and parted company. Paul took Silas to Syria and Cilicia, and Barnabas took Mark with him to Cyprus, and twice as much ground was covered. We hear a lot more from and about Paul, but reliable information about Barnabas is lost to history. Paul does mention Barnabas and Mark in his letters, and his words suggest they maintained a respectful, possibly friendly, relationship.
They continued to be successful on their separate paths because they realized a disagreement does not mean the work comes to a standstill until one side gets its way. They didn’t interfere with or sabotage each other. To the contrary, they allowed the Spirit room to work. Often in our faith communities, leaders have different visions for the future of the community. For example, some leaders are inwardly focused on spiritual development and sanctuary, while others are more naturally drawn to externally focused work, such as mission and social justice projects. Scarcity-minded leaders assume these visions are competing. Because they feel threatened, they hoard what they see as limited resources and even undermine the “competition.” Grace-minded leaders try to understand how these visions might be complementary, and make room in the community for both – or more.
All good work is good work. Food pantries are not the natural enemy of building fund drives. Be grateful for the work God has called you to do, and be gracious about the work He’s given others.
Comfort: Your work is valuable on its own.
Challenge: Avoid comparisons.
Prayer: Gracious and giving God, thank you for the abundance that allows all your children to do the work of your kingdom. Amen.
Discussion: Have you ever been unnecessarily competitive?
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