What does the world need more than anything else? It’s a compelling question, and depending on one’s culture, religion, and background, the answer may vary. Jason Clay, senior vice president for World Wildlife, argued in an essay for the New York Times that what the world needs most is education. “We must be on a relentless journey toward self-betterment,” he argues. “We must ask questions of ourselves and the people and institutions around us, so as to increase our knowledge as a society.” With this increase in knowledge, according to Clay, “humanity will find within itself an ability to develop peacefully and prosperously at a pace we have never before experienced.”
Others have famously argued—through song more frequently than the written word—that love is what the world most needs. Hal David and Burt Bacharach told us in 1965, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.” The Beatles told us in 1967, “All you need is love.” If we just loved one another, the notion goes, all would be well. The world would be made right.
The problem is, neither of these solutions actually works. The Western world in the early nineteenth century, perhaps more than any other culture in history, believed education was what the world needed most. It only took a couple of world wars for sensible people to realize this wouldn’t do the trick. The reality of sinful humanity is that we can turn knowledge into a weapon just like anything else, and anyway, there will always be more to learn. In the words of Ecclesiastes, “as knowledge increases, grief increases” (1:18).
What about love? Can love do what knowledge cannot? In theory, this idea is more appealing to us. But in practice, this won’t get the job done either. The problem is, different people love different things, and even within each person, our loves contradict one another.
I, for example, being a true Texan, love Tex-Mex. And you can’t have good Tex-Mex without queso. I love queso. But I also love my family. I love my wife, my kids, and my friends. The reality is, at some point, these loves will contradict one another! If I eat queso at lunch and dinner every day, I’m going to have some seriously clogged arteries, and the time I get to spend with my loved ones will be cut short. I have to choose between my loves. We all do.
So “love, sweet love,” apparently, is not “all you need.” What, then, does the world need most?
The World Needs Difference Makers
The thing your neighborhood, your city, your country, and the world needs most is difference makers. The world needs millions and millions of people who say together:
I was made for more than watching. I have a history-changing, difference-making, life-giving, Spirit-empowered legacy to leave. Jesus, I ask you to work deeply in me and clearly through me as I pray, give, and go in your love. I am a difference maker. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Perhaps the most well-known teaching of Jesus comes in the Sermon on the Mount. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus has been doing miracles and announcing the kingdom of God for four chapters. Then, in chapter five, he goes up on a mountain and begins to teach his hearers. He teaches them about the “blessed” life—the life that is consistent with the values of the coming kingdom.
What do people living this life look like? It’s not what we may be inclined to think. When we think of the blessed life, we think of health, wealth, and success. But Jesus’ version is a little different. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” he begins, “for the kingdom of heaven is theirs” (v. 3). He goes on:
- “Blessed are those who mourn” (v. 4).
- “Blessed are the humble” (v. 5).
- “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (v. 6).
- “Blessed are the merciful” (v. 7).
- “Blessed are the pure in heart” (v. 8).
- “Blessed are the peacemakers” (v. 9).
- “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness” (v. 10).
- “You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of me” (v. 11).
This, according to Jesus, is the good life! When we are shaped by Jesus and the values of his kingdom, this is the kind of life it produces. And a funny thing happens when a whole bunch of people, following Jesus together, embody these characteristics. They become really helpful to the world. Check out what Jesus says a few verses later:
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
What the world needs most, then, is not education or love—as good as those things are. What the world needs most are salt and light. Salt—to preserve what is good in the world and to add flavor to the mundane nature of life “under the sun.” Light—to give sight to a spiritually blind world, to illuminate the darkness, to expose sin and evil.
The word translated "you" in the verses above is a plural form of the word. If you live in the South like me, you might say, “Y’all are the salt of the earth. Y’all are the light of the world.” The point is, it requires the community. None of us can, by ourselves, be the salt and light we’re called to be; it’s only when we come together that we can be truly good for the world. All of this so that the world “may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
Did you notice that last line? Difference makers aren’t about getting the glory for themselves. They’re about getting the glory for God. And when we embody the values of the kingdom and live together on the same page, we become salt and light, we become good for the world, and God gets the glory.
Excerpted and adapted with permission from Difference Makers by Gregg Matte. Copyright 2019, B&H Publishing Group.
You were made for more than watching. You have a history-changing, difference-making, life-giving, Spirit-empowered legacy to leave. As Jesus works deeply in you and clearly through you, you will be a Difference Maker.
The first step to being a difference maker is having a difference made in you. Once God has made the gospel difference in your life, you will be ready to go in his name and play your part in changing the world. Are you ready to jump in?