Helping those with more to love those with less…

24 Feb

I am often shocked by the variety of life experiences of the people in our church.

It is a small example, I know, but yesterday I was sitting and drinking sodas with two of our interns. One said he remembered when he was a child that he was only allowed to drink one soda a day. The other smiled and said he remembered how he was only able to drink one soda a year and he and his brothers tried to make it last all day.

The fact of the matter is that many of us are unaware of just how financially privileged we have been and still are and when we do get a glimpse we are not always sure how to react to the fact that so many throughout the world have so much less.

Given that we are confronted with this on a daily basis, we have to do some thinking about right and wrong ways to react and since wrong is usually easier to identify, let me suggest a few wrong ways to respond to the great financial disparity that exists.

1. It is wrong to feel or act like you are superior because you have more financial resources.

I should not have to say this, but the fact is, many people use financial resources as a means of exalting themselves above others and what is sad is that many of those with less financial resources encourage them to do so. Those who are poor often make an idol out of money, thinking that having more is the solution to their life’s problems, and when they see someone who has money, they are tempted to exalt that person far above what he actually deserves. This has been happening for a long time. See James 2. Unfortunately, many of us like being exalted far above what we deserve and we get used to being treated like we are something because we have a little more financially, so used to it, that we expect it. Having more money does not make you more important than other people. Having more money does not make you more loved by God than other people. Having more money does not make you smarter than other people. So don’t act like it does. And if you don’t have much money, don’t act like it does either! I used to think that the problem with relationships was simply that some people feel superior to others. And that is a problem, it is hard to have a relationship with someone who feels so much superior to others. (I know. I have tried. People who feel superior to others are usually pretty hard to be friends with!) At the same time, it is very hard to build a relationship with someone who feels inferior as well! Take your feelings of superiority and inferiority to the cross. It is hard to feel superior when you see God becoming man and dying because you were so bad that you couldn’t save yourself. And it is hard to feel inferior when you realize that God loved you enough to become man and die that you might be forgiven of your sins and become His child. There is no partiality with God, so there shouldn’t be partiality with us!

2. It is wrong to act like not having many financial resources automatically equals having a terrible, deprived life.

I definitely want to be sensitive here and say this correctly. Maybe from my position, I can’t. Living in a tin shack without electricity is definitely difficult and we should not minimize the struggles that come from not having financial resources at your disposal. Many of us can’t even imagine going without a car for a week and the difficulties that go along with that, yet that’s a given for most people in the world. At the same time however, there is more to life than living in a nice house and driving in a car. America is a nice place to grow up but it is not heaven and there are some serious weaknesses in our culture, in fact, others could look at us and say that we are deprived in certain ways. I think of that every time I go to the park to witness. I am so hesitant to talk to strangers and part of that is personality and yet part of that is the fact that I grew up being told not to talk to strangers; whereas my African friends, pretty much regardless of personality, think it is pretty hilarious that I am so shy about talking to people I don’t know. They see someone sitting there beside our Bible study in the park and they can hardly sit listening to me for long without looking over and thinking about how they can invite them to join with us.

I am not trying to steal pity or give excuses for not feeling deep compassion for people who are living in difficult situations, we don’t need excuses, we need help feeling pity. We don’t want to minimize the difficulties that people experience! We don’t want to become like someone sitting with a person who is blind and thinking to himself well, he does have some advantages being blind. No. Crazy. But, we as Christians don’t want to buy into our culture’s myth as well, that simply having more money makes someone rich. There’s a whole lot more to being rich than having money.

3. It is wrong to feel guilty about legitimate blessings that God has brought into your life.

I am not saying that it is wrong for the glutton to feel guilty about eating too much. He is guilty. And many of us are guilty of using our resources in self-absorbed and self-centered ways. We should feel guilty and then repent and rejoice in the fact that we can experience forgiveness. Yet, you know, it doesn’t honor God either when He is gracious to us and allows us to be born into families that have more resources and gives us more resources, when we just sit around feeling bad about it. No, thank God for those resources and then seek to use those resources for His glory and other people’s good. Guilt can be a selfish response. It can be an excuse for not doing anything. You feel that guilt, well, stop and thank God for what He’s given you and ask Him to show you how to use your resources more effectively for His glory and then do something wise for the good of others, but don’t just content yourself with, well, at least I feel bad about it and then not doing anything. The whole world is training you to be self-absorbed and when you begin to see how self-absorbed you have been with your financial resources, it is tempting to respond to the sin of being self-absorbed in a self-absorbed way, where you try to fix it through self-righteous acts, here is fifty dollars now I can go buy some new shoes, or you just wallow in self-pity, poor me, I was born into a financially blessed country. What?

4. It is wrong to think that giving money is as valuable as developing a friendship.

Now again, I need to say this correctly. I am talking about developing a real friendship here and if I have a real friendship with someone who is suffering, then I am going to want to do something and act, of course. But, sometimes people use giving money as an excuse for not developing a friendship and I am just saying it should go the other way around. You should want to develop a relationship with the other person, get to know who he really is, how you can learn from him, how you can truly help him, not just throw money at someone to get them out of your life. Look, it can be such a crazy game. The person with financial resources uses the person without financial resources as a way of feeling better about himself, hey, I am not just greedy, here’s the way I am giving money to this and this; and the person without financial resources is tempted to use the person with financial resources as a means of getting himself ahead. Both people are using the others. Both are approaching the relationship with self at the center, though it may not look like that, because they are pretending to care about the other person. Now, we are sinners, and we are full of conflicting motivations, but let’s strive to do more than use people for our own good, but to love them instead, as we love ourselves.

5. It is wrong to use the sovereignty of God as an excuse for not caring and not doing anything to help others.

If I hear Jesus’ statement, “the poor will always be with us” given as a reason for a person sitting on his hands and feeling nothing one more time, wow, I may just cry. That’s like telling a doctor, why are you trying to find a cure for cancer, people are always going to get sick. Yeah, keep saying that, until you get cancer. The sovereignty of God did not keep Jesus or Paul from caring and it should not keep you from caring either. If anything, it should cause you to act. When you really get involved in trying to lay your life on the line for the good of others you are going to discover that you don’t know as much as you thought you did, you aren’t as capable as you thought you were, doing the right thing is a whole lot harder than you thought it was, and at that point, you are going to need to believe that God is in control and that God can do so much more than you can, if you are going to be able to move on. I think God often lets doing good seem impossible, and especially when you are in the middle of it, so you know at the end, that it was Him who did it.

6. It is wrong to be so self-absorbed that you don’t notice or take into consideration the pain and difficulties others are experiencing.

One of the great fights of my life is the fight to see. I feel like sometimes it is so hard to get my eyes off of myself so that I can actually see others and understand what they are experiencing and how they are hurting. Try to do so. It is going to be harder than you think because what does our culture teach us to do? It teaches us to try to organize our lives so that we can get away from people who are hurting. Instead of seeing the pain that is going on in other’s lives, we get a glimpse, and we think how can I get out of here so I don’t have to see it anymore. No. No. If you begin to see the difficulties that others are experiencing and if you start to feel something, that is awesome, thank God that He may be drawing you out of your little shell, build on that, ask more questions, try to put yourself in their shoes, think about how you can serve alongside of them to do something about the pain they are experiencing.

7. It is wrong to think that just because you can’t do everything, you can’t do anything.

There are a lot of people in difficult situations who are frustrated because they can’t get out of the situation right away, they want to be able to do one thing and have it be done. It doesn’t work that way. There are also a lot of people who look at people in difficult situations and don’t step in to do anything because they can’t fix the situation right away, they want to be able to do one thing and have it be done. It doesn’t work that way. If you will only climb a mountain when you can do it in one step, you will never climb a mountain. It takes a million little steps to get to the top of one gigantic mountain, and the same is often true, when dealing with people in devastating situations as well.

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