"The American Church, simply stated, is the wealthiest community of Christians in the history of Christendom. The total income of church goers is 5.2 trillion. It would take a little over 1% of the income of American Christians to lift the poorest one billion people in the world out of extreme poverty.
...The bottom line is that the commitment that American Christians, the wealthiest Christians in all history, are making to the world is just about 2 percent of 2 percent ... actually about 5 ten-thousandths of our income."
~ (Richard Stearns, President of World Vision)
When I read these startling statistics I couldn't help but be saddened. A small part of me, however, wasn't too surprised. This just shows a major flaw in the organized churches spread across our nation. Something is horribly wrong about our focus that we have lost sight of one of the main points of the gospel. God calls us to be compassionate towards the poor, the suffering, the broken hearted. Jesus preached love and compassion towards the margins of society not only through his words but by his actions.
One of the words that are flung towards Christians a lot is the word hypocrisy. Wikepedia defines "hypocrisy" as follows: Hypocrisy is the state of pretending to have beliefs, opinions, virtues, feelings, qualities, or standards that one does not actually have. Hypocrisy involves the deception of others and is thus a kind of lie.
Let's see what Jesus tells us, as Christians, how we should follow him:
"Jesus answered, If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'" Matthew 19:21
"But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind." Luke 14:13
"When Jesus heard this, he said to him, You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'" Luke 18:22
Here are some other verses in the Scripture that reveal to us what our attitudes should be towards those who are less fortunate than ourselves:
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27
If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." 1 John 3:17-18
"Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, 'Here's a good seat for you,' but say to the poor man, 'You stand there' or 'Sit on the floor by my feet,' have you not discriminated among yourselves and becomes judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?" James 2:2-6
Deuteronomy 15:7 "If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother."
"He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing." Deuteronomy 10:18
"There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land." Deuteronomy 15:11
Given the statistics shared by the President of World Vision, the verses in scripture above and the definition of "hypocrite", how do our churches measure up? Are we living by the standards God has places on us? To have an emphasis on compassion, for our hearts (and wallets) to serve the poor, not only through our prayers, but with our hands as well? Does our given state reveal us to be hypocrites? Well, I'll let you answer that question for yourself...
I am the last person to say that I have everything figured out and that I'm walking the straight and narrow path. Could I give more? Yes! Should I give more? Yes! Should we all give more? Yes! Most of us...
There are some in our country that are giving their all. They live in intentional communities infested with crime that are designed specifically to aid the poor, sharing all they make with the homeless...those people should serve as our inspiration! Below is a short clip about a book that helped open my eyes and readjust my focus on what it means to follow Christ. It's by Shane Claiborne: Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical. Since reading this book I've made some personal changes-I began volunteering and donating at a local soup kitchen and am looking into more opportunities to get involved. It has truly inspired me to look more in depth into how Jesus taught us to live. I still have a long way to go...but I guess the point is in just starting to make a change...we all can start, in little ways, to help advance the Kingdom of God!
It's funny what reading the New Testament and coming along with Jesus as he ministered to people can do when, by reading such accounts, the Spirit whispers to our hearts, prompting us to walk on that same path! Can you imagine what the world would look like if all of us Christians across our nation had the desire and actually applied that desire to live like Jesus? To follow the standards our God places on us? It would be a revolution...a turning point away from suffering and towards healing for the world.
When we've finally inhaled our last breath and our heart ceases to beat no more we will not only be held accountable for the actions we did but also by the actions we didn't do.
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 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, 36 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.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
What are your thoughts on the statistics and verses shared in this post? Why do you think America's churches are failing so miserably in the area of giving to and serving the poor? Can you think of any possible solutions? What can you do, personally, to live more like Christ in this area?
We thank you for the abundant spiritual and physical blessings you've rained down on us. May you help our hearts open up to the gospel and may your Spirit guide us, urge us, draw us towards being more and more like Jesus. Help give us the courage to be bold and fearlessly go into the world's darkest corners so that we may shine the light that you've given us in our hearts and vanguish darkness, giving hope to the hopeless, peace to the troubled and tormented. We aren't perfect, that's for sure, but help us begin, step by step, to walk more and more like Jesus. May we be a people of prayer and action as we seek to bring you glory and manifest your Kingdom here on earth.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.