Isaiah 22-26; Titus 2-3

Week Number

The Bible is packed with practical advice about how to live life successfully. Paul’s letter to his close friend, Titus, contained one of these valuable guidelines. “For our people should not have unproductive lives. They must learn to do good by helping others who have urgent needs” (Titus 3:14).

In today’s world, the productivity of a person’s life is often measured by the amount of wealth and possessions accumulated. Paul’s definition and measurement of a successful, productive life were completely different. He believed lives were productive when people spent their time and resources “learning to do good” for others.

Notice that Paul believed this was a learned response, not a natural one, for he undoubtedly recognized our tendency toward focusing on our own desires. While we may know people who naturally seem to do good to others, it is likely their behavior is not the result of a core personality trait but from much practice in giving up their own plans so that they can help others.

While the shift from being self-absorbed starts with learning to do good, it deepens as we begin “helping others who have urgent needs.” This makes sense. To help people with “urgent needs” is to do so with no expectation of repayment. And when no repayment is expected, compassion and kindness guide our behavior.

This world certainly does not lack those with urgent needs. We often think urgent needs—such as physical needs for food, clean water, adequate shelter, warm clothing, and medical care—are met through monetary help. While this is true, there are many urgent needs that are met in other ways. Emotional needs for friendship, acceptance, encouragement, respect, and comfort are met as we give our time and companionship. And it is often time and companionship that help to meet spiritual needs, such as guidance on how to begin and grow in a relationship with Jesus, reminders of God’s greatness, and prayer for others.

Urgent needs often trigger powerful emotions for both the giver and the receiver. As we become people who practice doing good to help others, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the enormity of the needs and discouraged as we wonder if what we are able to do makes much difference. As these thoughts arise, we need to remind ourselves that we are not in this alone. We can ask God for wisdom to know what we are to do and what should be left to others, for strength, and for more people to be willing to live productive lives by helping others.

Being on the receiving end of help can bring a different set of emotions. While it would be rare for any person to travel through life without experiencing urgent physical, emotional, or spiritual needs, we may feel embarrassed when these situations occur in our lives. May God help us to remember that it may be our need that allows another to “learn to do good.”

And isn’t it true that having an urgent need in one area of our life does not preclude us from helping others in another area? You may have heard stories of people who, while helping someone in need, were also renewed by what they had received in return.

This is not surprising, for aren’t we often amazed by how God works in our lives? We think we are giving to another and we are also receiving. We think we are receiving and we are also giving. Yes, there may be times of discouragement associated with urgent needs, but there are also times of joy and thankfulness from seeing God at work through us and for us.

Once again, the Bible’s values stand in contrast to the values of our society, for it is not what we accumulate but what we give that makes us productive. By God’s standards, are we living productive lives?

© 2010 Arlina Yates