Having not attended a National Day Parade since I was a student, I’ve always missed one thing: the wonderful goodie bags that participants get. I must confess, I’ve always felt a little envious seeing all the fun stuff that friends brandished about after attending a parade.
So this year, it was really nice to get the “Singapore Together Pack”, which all Singaporeans and permanent residents get. But there was something that made the bags even more special—and I’m not talking about the masks and digital thermometers.
Rather, it was the lively artwork that decorated the cotton tote bags. There are 10 designs, all done by people with disabilities. It was heartening to know that those who are less-abled can still play a significant role in our national celebration.
It turned out that the feeling was mutual. One artist, Ms Katy Lee, told Channel News Asia said she was “over the moon” to have her work featured. It means a lot to disabled people, she said, because it reminds them that they are still able to contribute to society.
Her words prompted me to think: Do we do the same in our churches, faith ministries, and Christian circles?
No doubt, many of us will not consciously discriminate against those who may seem weaker or less-abled. After all, we do genuinely believe that God values every person He has created. But perhaps, in a country and society that tends to place much value on efficiency and productivity, we might—unknowingly—tend to sideline those who, we perceive to be slower, weaker, or less capable mentally or physically.
Do we, I wonder, try not to involve the disabled, the elderly, the young, or others in church ministry and Christian work because we feel they are less efficient or competent? Personally, I have been guilty of doing this—assigning important tasks to those I think are the “best” people, and less critical tasks to others whom I believe will not be able to do such a good job.
Of course, there is much wisdom in making good use of the unique gifts that God gives different people, and in getting people to do what they enjoy and are good at. But sometimes (and I will readily confess to this), I think our decisions are also based on considerations like quality, efficiency, and productivity.
God’s Word, however, makes clear that our Father does not value us based on our abilities, skills, or talents. In His eyes, every one of us is “able” to do the work He has prepared for us to do. God chose David above his older, more experienced brothers to lead a nation. Jesus praised the widow who offered all she had, even though it was just two copper coins.
1 Samuel 16:7 tells us how God sees us:
The Lord does not look at the things people look at.
People look at the outward appearance,
but the Lord looks at the heart.
1 Corinthians 12:7 reminds us how He sees our gifts and our roles in our community and in His work:
Now to each one
the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for the common good.
And Philippians 2:3–4 reminds us about how we are to see others:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,
not looking to your own interests
but each of you to the interests of the others.
Perhaps we can ask ourselves, where appropriate: What priority do we place on efficiency and quality? What priority do we place on giving someone joy in getting him involved in something, even if he doesn’t seem to be the “best” person for the job? How do we assess a person’s suitability for a task—by his ability, or his heart?
Assigning tasks and responsibilities in church and in our ministries is not an easy thing. We need great wisdom in discerning God’s giftings in each individual, and we also need to be responsible and accountable in using the resources that God gives us.
But may we also remember to value people and see them through God’s eyes. Everyone in God’s family can play a part in His kingdom work. —Leslie Koh
Lord, teach me to see and value others
just as You see them—as Your beloved children
who are cherished for who they are to You,
not for what they can do
and how well they can do it.