In 1 Samuel 30, David’s small ragtag army returns from a discouraging venture only to face disaster. As they near Ziklag, the foreboding smell of smoke alerts them to the fact their unprotected town has been raided by the Amalekites, their families taken captive and their homes burned. It’s too much. They raise their voices and weep until they have no more strength to weep.
That’s when their agony shifts to anger, and they’re ready to stone the one who led them away on this failed excursion. David, already distraught because his two wives are among the captives, refuses to give in. He strengthens himself in the Lord his God, and then he moves to action.
David inquires of the Lord, and God promises success. Before the bitterness can harden, David rallies all 600 men. They probably don’t mind having an action plan, but they’re not fit for quick pursuit. Before long, a third of them collapse, because they are too exhausted to cross a river. David switches to plan B, taking advantage of this setback to allow those with remaining strength to thin down their gear and leave it with the 200. Moving lighter on their feet, the 400 catch up with the Amalekites and rout them, freeing their families and collecting plenty of loot.
The question they face now is this: does the loot belong to the 400 on the front lines, or to the entire army? In spite of voices to the contrary, David decides that the one who goes into battle will have the same share as the one who stays with the supplies. Eventually David will make this principle the law of the land: people should not be valued differently because of the specific piece they can contribute to a mission’s success.
This principle has an application today for how we view missions. In my experience, churches too often have a hierarchy, valuing those working at home below those on the front lines. I’m not pointing fingers. Here at Wycliffe, we have a parallel hierarchy: translators are at the top of the heap, and everyone else fits into another tier. Even mission agencies can compare themselves against other missions. But such thinking is neither healthy nor biblical.
In his book The Mission of God’s People, Dr. Chris Wright comments: “In the variety of mission God has entrusted to His church as a whole, it is unseemly for one kind of mission to dismiss another out of a superiority complex, or to undervalue itself as ‘not real mission’ out of an inferiority complex. The body image has powerful resonance here.”
To apply Paul’s metaphor about the body to missions, evangelism ministries shouldn’t be ranked higher than training schools. And the administrative assistant should not think herself less a part of the body because she is not a translator.
There’s encouragement for you, as well. The apostle John picks up the same thread when he makes a hero out of a quiet church member named Gaius. He says in 3 John 8 that, when we support people who take God’s truth to those who haven’t heard it, we are fellow workers in the truth.
We all have a part to play, and God can put our meager resources together to create real impact. Wycliffe is not simply a group of translators. We’re a team of administrators, receipt clerks, teachers, photographers and church-goers, participating in God’s mission to transform and restore our world. We’re a Canadian movement that dares to dream that we can fuel a global Bible translation movement.