This time of year brings forward the concept of wants vs. needs. I remember as a child when the Sears Christmas catalog would arrive and I’m pretty sure I wanted just about everything in that catalog. I would look through the pages over and over to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Of course, my ideas of what I wanted and my mom and dad’s idea of what I needed was quite different.
Recently, part of the staff met to talk about the language we use in our communications. It’s easy to realize that even as a church we can confuse our wants vs. our needs. The most common usage is our numerous statements claiming our need for volunteers for an event or an activity. A couple of examples: we need volunteers to sign up to serve for the fellowship hour on Sunday. Or, we need helpers or chips or cookies for our Neighborhood Gathering. What might happen if we don’t get the volunteers we need? At worst, we wouldn’t have food to eat during our fellowship time on that particular Sunday. Is food during fellowship time truly a need or is it a want? Are volunteers or pies or paper plates for the Neighborhood Gathering a need or a want?
God has gathered an amazing group of people into Christ’s body here at Bethesda. I remember one of my Seminary Professors saying that God has given the congregation you will serve everything it needs to do ministry in that place. What he was trying to get us to realize is that we need to rely on God. If we look at a situation and we can only see our wants or our longings, nothing will ever seem good enough. Instead if we can focus on the gifts and abilities that we already have in place, then we are more likely to experience abundance instead of scarcity.
So we are going to work on our language. Is there a need for servers or is there an opportunity to serve? Is there a need for cookies, so is there an opportunity for someone to provide them? As important as this is in our congregational life it is important in our personal life, as well. It’s easy to confuse needs vs. wants. Is cable or satellite tv a need or a want? Is a cellphone a need or want? Is the latest greatest thing a need or a want? Sometimes asking the question is the first step.
One member, Sydney Wilson, says it this way, “Whenever I am at the store, I pick up an item and look at it and then I ask myself is this a need or a want, most often I set the item back down because it is a want and not a need.” The truth is that we can be fickle about what we want. Have you ever convinced yourself that you simply had to have something only to bore with it rather quickly and it ended up in a drawer collecting dust? For the past several years, Pastor Sarah and I have had a new plan for buying gifts for our kids at Christmas time. Each child gets four gifts: something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read. We don’t always get it perfect but it keeps us from buying stuff just for the sake of buying stuff and the kids have adjusted ok to this plan. We’ve also found that you think a little harder and plan a little better when fewer gifts are involved. In this holiday season, both in our personal lives and our life as a congregation, let us give thanks for what we have, be honest about what we need, and acknowledge but not surrender to our wants.