I was having a cappuccino with a friend at a café di other day when I started to get that uneasy feeling you get when you know you’ve done something wrong. It wasn’t because I was procrastinating and avoiding that paper I needed to write. No, it was because my cappuccino cost $2.95. Don’t think that’s very expensive? Think again.
According to Wikipedia, (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Measuring_poverty) an estimated 2.7 billion people lived on less than $2 a day in 2008. My drink cost more than what almost half the world makes in a whole day. We are the 1 percent who are rich.
We might think that we’re somehow suffering for Christ when we spend a sleepless night on a bus or have to go a few days without warm showers while on a mission trip. But let’s face it, for most people in our world, that’s just everyday life. Americans don’t really experience suffering. Somehow we’ve ended up on a cushy assignment here on planet earth and have the audacity to thank God for our material blessings, as we buy ourselves the newest, shiny iPosh gadget. What’s up with that? But at least we’re being grateful, right? Since we tithe, we’re good right? Isn’t that good enough?
I’m not so sure it is. Scripture is full of hard passages that can stab straight into our hearts like, “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered” (Proverbs 21:13), and “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God” (Proverbs 14:31).
According to scripture, we somehow lend to God by being kind to the poor, “He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done” (Proverbs 19:17). We should be more willing to be like the poor widow in Mark 12:44 and give all we have, but often we are more like the rich young man in Luke 18:22-4, who was saddened that Jesus asked him to give up the riches and comforts of this world. We shouldn’t lose sight of the reason we are really here, especially since we have “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you” (I Peter 1:4).
I think scripture is clear. If we love God we will be those in heaven to whom Jesus will say, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matthew 25:35-6). We should take advantage of the opportunities around us to show others the mercy God has shown us.
It’s easy to know we are to do these things but it’s more difficult to get it done. We can all use new ways to try to pull this mission off, so here are some practical ways we might put these things into action.
Try sponsoring a child through WorldVision (www.worldvision.org) or Compassion (www.compassion.com). Both organizations have similar goals of helping children in poverty, providing aid during crisis and community level improvements.
Another way you can aid your brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering persecution while learning more about how you can pray for them is by visiting a website called Voice of the Martyrs (www.persecution.com).
Of course there are many other options including helping out with various programs which your local church may have like helping the area homeless or less fortunate. Even if you don’t know what types of things are being done in your church or community, you should ask. Churches usually have someone who, if they aren’t heading up a ministry, can point you toward someone who is. That might be someone in another church or a community organizer. They might just need some help to love others in the name of Christ, even if they don’t know Who He is.
So, go out and give it a try! What do you have to lose? We don’t have to know what we’re doing, especially at first. We can’t mess it up too bad if we are trying to help others. Who knows, if we give enough of our time and money away, we might just give up that guilty conscious, as well. Wouldn’t that be nice?