Five hours a week. That is how much time the typical family has left to serve others.
This statistic came from a pastor friend who did a basic survey in his personal church. (And his name is NOT George Barna) He found that after:
- Work is finished
- Kids are shipped off to soccer practice and basketball games
- Groceries are bought
- Family entertainment is exhausted
- Church commitments are finalized
… the families of his church have around 5 hours left…… to relax, decompress and serve others.
For years Americans have been known as charitable people. In 2013 alone $335 billion dollars (yes that is 9 zeros after the crooked numbers) was given to charitable organizations.
As American Christians we are excellent at giving, and that is good. Giving and generosity is biblical. (Prov. 3:27) What I contend however is that we aren’t quite as good at loving.
Isn’t generosity a form of showing someone love? Yes, I think it is, and certainly if you have been on the receiving end of a generous gift during a tough time you probably felt loved. But does it end there?
The Bible clearly commands Christians to love others. Off the top of my head I can think of several key verses that state this principle (1 John 4:7-8, John 13:34, Hebrews 13:1, 1 Pet. 4:8) not to mention the second greatest commandment of loving others (neighbor) as yourself. (Mark 12:31)
So by being benevolent Christians alone are we accomplishing this command?
I think the contention comes at a deeper level. As Americans we have time for helping but loving is a different story. In the story of the Good Samaritan Jesus shares what loving someone looks like; stepping into their pain and responding with time, intentionality and love. The story seems to indicate a level of involvement outside of only finances. We see a generosity of time, emotional energy and physical sacrifice. Love was expressed in a very tangible and yet emotional, social and physical way.
Loving someone seems to indicate more than just charity. I think it infers relationship. A relationship that builds trust, uncovers commonalities and seeks to affirm dignity in the life of another. I don’t know if it is possible to really love someone without giving them your time and some of your emotional/social/physical effort. Relationships require effort and effort often requires sacrifice. My friends are people that know me, and I know them too. It didn’t get there overnight.
While I firmly believe there is a time and place for simple charitable giving, I think as followers of Jesus we should always be striving to move deeper, from simply helping to a greater more committed loving.
People are to be valued and there is no way to better show someone else their worth than to give them what seems to be the most precious thing many Americans have… their time. When we take the time to get to know someone for who they are, listen to their struggles; recognize their dreams and genuinely enjoy their company (as hard as it sometimes is) we affirm their personhood, their value as a person.
Although, I am the first to recognize that this is hard, difficult and sometimes messy, especially if the person is tough to love due to addictions, illnesses or vulnerabilities; it is what God seems to be telling us throughout scripture.
What are some of the differences you ask? How do we identify what is a loving act compared to just a helping act??
Here are a few of the differences that I see.
- Helping often implies fixing, repair or touching up… loving implies encouraging, supporting and empowering.
- Helping often focuses on results… loving focuses on the process. How are we/they changing as we move forward?
- Helping often implies having the answers… loving implies listening to help discover answers.
- Helping is many times short-term, immediate injection … loving is often long-term, sustainable change
- Helping is a hero to victim mentality… loving is about equal ground, walking hand in hand.
I am sure there are many other differences out there. If you think of some please post them in the comment section.
What does it take to be loving people?
I don’t know where your struggles are in this, but I would imagine that you are probably like most of us and time is an ever decreasing commodity.
Are there people in your life that need more of your time? People that need to be loved and shown value? Are you trying to just squeeze them into your 5 extra hours a week? Maybe some things can and should shift in your life to make more time for others.
It’s actually pretty easy to help, but I encourage you to start thinking about how to love. How can your life better reflect this priority of the Scriptures? The simple and yet complex command of loving others should not be relegated to 5 hours a week. How can you overcome the five-hour syndrome?? Not only should loving others be integrated into all we do, but also it should always be part of what makes our life as Christians distinctive from the rest of the world.
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” http://www.christianpost.com/news/americans-are-giving-more-to-charity-less-to-the-church-says-report-121698/ image courtesy of Matt Biddulph / Flickr.com