Change the World, but Don’t Be the Savior

Willow Creek | January 24, 2022

There’s a sense of pride that comes with making a positive impact in our world. When we help a friend navigate a loss, offer a meal to someone experiencing homelessness, or donate money to help drill a well or build a house—something comes alive inside of us because we experience the possibility of change. It’s powerful.

But what happens when helping others becomes part of your identity? Or worse, what happens when you think the change in the world or in someone’s life solely relies on you?

As humans, we have to manage the tension of knowing we are part of the change God wants to do in the world but recognize we are not the single solution to the problems in our world. 

In When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett, he unpacks the problem that arises when Christians think they are bringing both answers and Jesus to those experiencing poverty. While his book is largely directed at missions work, the principles are relevant for us all:

“Until we embrace our mutual brokenness, our work with low-income people is likely to do more harm than good. I sometimes unintentionally reduce poor people to objects that I use to fulfill my own need to accomplish something. I am not okay, and you are not okay. But Jesus can fix us both.”

Even in our helping, we can make it about us. So how do you change the world but not be the savior?

First, recognize your own brokenness and need for Christ. Whether your self-esteem and confidence are high, or you can’t imagine God using someone like you, God wants to do transformative work inside of you. He wants to free you from insecurities, pride, expectations, and pressure. He wants to fill you up so that you can BLESS others without false motive or intent. If you want to change the world, start first by looking within and gaining a right-sized view of yourself and Jesus.

Second, open your eyes to see the needs of others. Oftentimes we waver between two extremes: We ignore the pain and brokenness of our world, or we are completely overwhelmed by it. Be willing to see the needs around you and ask God for guidance on what part you should play. Sometimes even the smallest gestures—like taking the time to talk to someone who looks discouraged—can make tremendous change. 
Lastly, respond. Let go of the pressure to solve all the problems in your social circles, neighborhood, or world and trust that if you faithfully respond, God will work. Jesus fed 5,000 people when a boy shared his small lunch of fish and bread. Jesus praised a widow for the posture of her heart and surrender when she, out of faith, gave two small coins in the temple offering. Changing the world doesn’t always mean big, grand gestures or sacrifices. Over time, small, faithful, genuine acts of surrender and generosity will create ripple effects of transformation beyond our comprehension.