There is a phenomenon in the United States and the world over. It pervades conversations between close friends, gossip amongst rivals and diplomacy by leaders around the world. Sometimes it can be useful, but often it rationalizes poor decisions or behavior and assigns unrealistic values to people or things.
We love to rank, to grade, to sort, to arrange. We have the Billboard Top 100, "Sexiest Man of the Year", Best Cities in America to Raise a Family. There is the World's 10 Wealthiest People and the 25 Poorest Countries. The list, no pun intended, goes on and on.
The idea of ranking things irks me very deeply. It generalizes people and issues and usually it isn't pretty. It carries through to all elements of our lives, and to be honest, I'd love to eliminate it completely.
In Christianity, it springs up and makes for uncomfortable differences and distinctions -- problems are created unnecessarily between people. Too many times I have heard people minimize the struggles of others by comparing and ranking them.
"I had a rough day today, and I haven't eaten dinner yet."
"Well, you should be glad you are getting a meal at all, since hundreds of children die of starvation everyday."
Does this exchange help those starving children? No. Does it help the person who had a rough day and just needs a meal and a friend to talk to? No. It only serves to belittle the all-too-real struggles of someone who is right here, right now. And believe me, I'm not trying to say that our needs here are more important than starving children. There is no "more important" or "less important". There are only needs that must be satisfied -- ranking and valuing them doesn't help anyone. You should help the people you are equipped to help, right where you are.
What are the greatest commandments?
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind."
If we are following this commandment, then the second should become an extension of the first -- if we love God with everything we have, then won't we love the people he loves?
"Love your neighbor as you love yourself." (Find those in Matthew 22:37-40)
Our reaction to suffering or unhappiness in the lives of people around us should not be to put them in their place or even decide whether their struggle is big enough for us to care about. It should be to love them, because that is what God would do.
I'm not saying this will always be easy or fun. It probably won't be. But don't the people around you deserve God's love -- not because they are a starving child, but because they are His child?
So: love. Love the person next to you in class, or on the bus. Love the homeless man on your streetcorner. Love Billy Graham and Britney Spears. Love the poorest of the poor and the wealthy entrepreneurs. Just live it out, and don't bother deciding whose best or worst.