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I have a few thoughts I’d like to share today with you, but first a couple notes… If you haven’t read the first post in this series, you should start here. It lays a good foundation for much of this post.
Second, I have many friends I care deeply about who do not share my same faith values. This post is really meant for those who have chosen to follow Jesus and his teachings as a way of life. If that’s not you, I’d love for you to enter into the conversation, but this doesn’t as much apply without some of the other assumptions we (followers) make. I’ll explain more in a bit.
So you know the statitics are stagering. 80% of the world population lives on less than $10 a day. Nearly 1/2 of the world’s population — more than 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day, and more than 1.3 billion live in extreme poverty, less than $1.25 a day. That can be overwhelming. That can also lead to an odd sense of guilt. That vacation to Colorado is a little more bittersweet…burdening us with guilt is not my intention.
While I don’t think we should feel guilty just for having plenty, there is a sense of responsibility those with plenty carry. And this responsibility? Well, my reading from 2 Corinthians this morning speaks directly to this question. This chapter was written to the church in Corinth, but may as well have been written to the chuch in the US. Give this a good read and let it soak in…not words to another group of people in another time, but words to you and I…
And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches [you could certainly swap out churches from any developing country (Chris’ interjection)]. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you —see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.
Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.” (2 Corinthians 8:1-15 NIV)
So let’s pause and acknowledge the obvious…this all sounds pretty familiar, right? There are many political systems built on some of those isolated principals, right? Take from those who have and give to those who don’t. Universal health care? Welfare? And on the extreme end of the spectrum – socialism? Now, please don’t get stuck and tear into your political rant of choice. These are not my words…
This conversation and work we are undertaking is difficult. I understand deeply the complications of giving, and fighting poverty. All around me, I see the hurt that good intentions have caused. Every church group that brings down boxes of uniforms the ladies from their church made, strikes a blow to the seamstresses and sewing community I’m investing in. Teams coming down to build houses take the work away from the skilled labor and craftsmen who are sitting, waiting to work. I’m not by no means speaking against these efforts, we just need to acknowledge the complexities and consider the consequences of our good deeds.
Those who “have” clearly have a responsibility to those who do not. In the same way – those who recieve also have a responsibility. Both have responsibilities and both are to be held accountable.
And there it is… the axiom of this conversation…
I have a responsibility…
You have a responsibility…
and we hold each other accountable in love.
This is the only way these things work. We do not only give and receive, we invest ourselves in the people we’re giving to or receiving from. Equality is the goal, but that only works within the context of the other principles of our Christian faith. To give, but not invest in love, leads to resentment and dependency. But to give and to invest in love creates an accountable partnership.
Our school partnership is growing nicely. It’s not without its frustrations. We had a couple students drop out this week and had to kick one out for being disruptive. The machines break about as fast as I can repair them. And the cultural differences are a challenge to work through (sitting in class alone for 30 minutes before the first student shows up still blows my mind). But we work to hold each other accountable in love and grow our partnership.
There’s a lot more to come from our efforts (there are some in the works that are so exciting they keep me up at night). I’m more and more convinced that this is only the beginning of something much bigger than any of us could have ever dreamed.
Thank you for your partnership in this with me. Each of you who support and give and pray and plan are in on this. You partner with me and a community a few miles south. And something beautiful is just beginning to grow out of that partnership.