My original intent as I entered into a study of Richard Sterns book, The Hole in Our Gospel, was to write a reflection on a weekly basis. I had two reasons for doing so: share this journey with folks who and personally reflect on what I have read how I can/should be responding. I have not kept up with this committment so now I must play catch up, so for that reason I will share my reflections as we are halfway through the study.
Week three’s readings were full of statistics that put global poverty into perspective. Perhaps the most glaring statistic is the fact that 26,575 children died yesterday, will die today, and will die tomorrow from preventable poverty related conditions. 26,575 is a sobering number. These
numbers deaths are preventable.
Greed, how much is enough? Instinctively (and socially) we are programmed to for greed. We need to have a new car every five years. We need to have a brand-new home. We need we need we need. We purchase more food than we can or should consume, clothing that is made by children and adults who are not paid a living wage, and continue to think (maybe no consciencely) that our own superficial needs are greater than those from impoverished nations. It is this very greed that had my wife and I convinced that we needed to buy everything in bulk (knowing full-well that we would not be able to consume all that we had purchased before it spoiled — see Exodus 16).
Stearns asserts that we no longer have the excuse of not knowing about global poverty. He is 100% correct. Between a 24/7 global media assault and social media we are given reports of global poverty on a continual basis; but we choose to ignore these reports. I am guilty of changing the channel when a commercial for an international children’s aid organization comes on telling me about how a little girl is destined to live off of a trash dump, and I can help prevent this by a simple gift of X amount a day (probably less than I will spend on lunch today). It’s not that we do not know about global poverty and the action that is required immediately. We have chosen not to react.
How can I help everyone? Will my gift really make a difference? These are questions that I have wrestled with since I first read Stearns book last year. I am not a “rich” person. My wife and I do not live an extravagant lifestyle by any means, or so I thought. 2.6 million people throughout the world live on less than $2.00/day. 60% of the population makes less than $900/year and 30% makes less than $9,000/year. If you do the math, that leaves ~10% of the world making more than $9,000/year. Now when I look at the salaries that my wife and I receive, I would consider us to be rich. This past weekend our biggest concern was what were we going to have for dinner, not if we would have a meal at all. If wealth was a direct result of hard work, the children throughout the world who cannot attend school because they are walking six, even more, miles a day to get water for their families on a daily basis would be wealthier than any Fortune 500 CEO
We do not have to be rich to be generous to our brothers and sisters. “Well maybe if they worked harder they would escape poverty.” I heard this while having a conversation with a co-worker about the book and study. At first I was infuriated by the comment. How can this person claims to be a Christian not showing any kind of mercy or love towards those who need help. I have been guilty of these ideas in past. Work hard and you will be rewarded. That is what we are taught in school and society. But it is in Exodus that God tells Moses and the Israelites to only take what they need, for if they take more than they need it will spoil and be of no use to them.
“4Then the LORD said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not…16This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Gather as much of it as each of you needs, an omer to a person according to the number of persons, all providing for those in their own tents.'” 17The Israelites did so, some gathering more, some less. 18But when they measured it with an omer, those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed. 19And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over until morning.” 20But they did not listen to Moses; some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul. And Moses was angry with them.” (Exodus 16:4, 16-20)
What are we suppose to do then? The first thing I would do is to simply pray. First, give thanks to God for all that has been provided to you and your family. Thank God for the fact that you do not have to spend half of the day walking to retrieve water and the other half of the day returning to your home. Second, pray for the people of the world, both impoverished and wealthy. Lastly, ask God for guidance. “What can I do? Where are you calling me?”
Aside from prayer, what are some other avenues available to us to aid those impoverished here in the United States and across the world? Here a few resources:
These questions that you present to God may not come with the answers you had hope for, be prepared. Discernment of how God is calling you to respond is not an overnight action but when you decide to move the results will be spectacular.
Peace & Blessings.