Perhaps a Little Guilt Can Be a Good Thing

By Jennifer Johnson

In 2011, Americans spent more than $1 billion on scrapbooking supplies. They spent more than 100 times that on fast food and, unbelievably, another $1 billion on the Facebook game Farmville.

Anyone who’s grown up in a Protestant church in America has experienced “missions angst”—that gnawing guilt for having so much material wealth and good food while missionaries in foreign countries eat goat and wear discarded American T-shirts. We admire them, but we don’t want to be one of them, which we feel guilty about. We write a check once or twice a year, and know we could do more, but we don’t want to because we want some new stuff here, which we feel guilty about. Plus, the problems seem unsolvable no matter how much we give, because no one else seems to be doing very much, and we feel angry at the church about this, which we then feel guilty about. And as every 16-year-old church camper knows, secretly we’re afraid to commit our lives to full-time Christian service out of fear that God’s will for our life might involve moving to Bhutan, which we would hate, which we feel guilty about, but not enough to go forward at the invitation, which we feel guilty about.

“Missions angst” is a complex thing.

I don’t think God expects us to donate every dollar to international missions (or that he has a specific will for your life, but that’s another article). The real question is when “enough” becomes excess, which—darn it—seems to be between each person and God instead of a one-size-fits-all rule. The biblical principle that does seem to apply universally is that “enough” is “too much” when it becomes more important than obedience to Christ and the specific ways he’s calling us to sacrifice.

So explore these two sites ( and and some of the hundreds of missions, leaders, and resources they offer, angst-free. Well, except for one rule—you should spend at least as much giving to missions as you do on the scrapbook about your short-term trip.


See the related article, “Websites Help Foster Global Evangelism.”


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