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Sharing the insights I discover as I explore and experience the mystery that is our reality. Join me in my journey and share yours.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The American Church : A Hypocrisy?

"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.

Matthew 25:31-40

  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?

Heavenly Father,

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.


  1. Jessica, there are hypocrisies in all systems. Religions are really man made - Jesus is not... I am not a very religious person - like to call myself more spiritual than religious but I know that most of us are really turned out to be what the Supreme being had in mind when he made us.

    Kriti - http://kriti-howaboutthis.blogspot.com/

  2. His point is well taken, however, he makes it sound like we American Christians don't give any money to charity. A quick Google search shows that Americans gave $295 billion to charities in 2006, 85% of that was from individual giving, 2.2% of their income (http://www.america.gov/st/washfile-english/2007/June/200706261522251CJsamohT0.8012354.html) Did all of that go to the poor? No, of course not. Even World Vision, a very reputable charity, had to use 15% of their income for operating expenses. I'm sure a lot of it went to local churches where it was used for operating expenses, local outreach, missions...

    Could we give more? Yes. Should we? Yes. But I think we are far from the miserly hypocrites his statement makes us out to be. He is, after all, in the business of raising money.

  3. There's a lot of government officials in Africa gotten rich by skimming off all the aid money that has gone into Africa. And Africa is still a cot case. There is argument for abandoning charitable aid to African states and forcing them to stand up and make their own way. Charitable giving can lead to dependancy upon handouts.

  4. The American churches have missed the mark here. That’s what I think in light of these statistics. I personally believe that all welfare is the responsibility of the churches. At least this was the obvious intent according to all these scriptures you cited here. If organized religion would die to greed and frivolity and share the wealth with the needy, no one would go hungry and every child would have a home and warm clothing. The parable of the sheep and the goats says it all.

  5. I can't speak for others, but I certainly can for myself. I have seen both sides of the spectrum. But I know this. God did not put me on this earth to judge others, and He did expect me to live my life as a Christian, which I desperately try to do. It saddens me to see people in need and we have, in the past and continue to do so, help where we can help. There are great people out there that help as well although there are others that do not. Before we can expect our society to step up to the plate, I think our government needs to as well. Our government seems to take care of everyone else other than ourselves.

  6. Great thoughts everyone. I think this is an important reality-the suffering and poverty in this world and the call God has on us Christians to help alleviate some of it. It isn't an easy issue though and one that is multi-faceted with all kinds of complicated factors-like corporations that take people for a ride for their money, not getting the funds to those that they are intended for, etc. etc.

    Mark, I appreciate your efforts in research! You're right, there are always other facts to consider and what you've found definitely shows that there are efforts being made by many in this country to help those who are in poverty out.

    Kriti, I appreciate your thoughts. I think from a Christian perspective, though, it's always important (and this is just my opinion, I'm no expert as the intro to my blog relates) to look at scripture as a guide to how we are to approach life. And scripture is clear on what our attitudes and actions should be towards those that are poor. I'm not critisizing anyone or any specific church, etc., but I'm just suggesting that's always a good thing to be accountable to Scripture. I'm nowhere near where I should be...but I just feel as Christians we shouldn't be stagnate, but static...we should be always moving always evolving more and more, closer and closer into the likeness of Christ. Isn't that what the Bible tells us? If we are to do that then we should, as churches, as a body of Christ, be held accountable to scripture and its standards it places on followers of Christ. We'll never be perfect, but we should never stop questions and never stop digging deep and finding answers on how to make things work more effectively to advance the Kingdom of God.

    You're right Debra...the sheep and goats parable says it all!

    I loved the answers because everybody that posted had a slightly different perspective , bringing up a different view and thing to consider. Dialogue is so important to understanding situations, like this one and others, and trying to come up with some solutions.

  7. The church has let the poor and oppressed down in some aspects but on the other hand, they give their time and resources freely. Yes more money should go from the church coffers to the needy who have nary a bite to eat while these mega churches flaunt their airplanes and luxury autos. There's no doubt God will judge these churches and it's leaders on its goodwill toward others and surely many will fail the test.

    That said we as individuals should try to do more with our time and money as well. The whole world has failed and it's really sickening when I stop to think about a newborn with no food, water, or future. This whole world and system seems broken!!! Nice post!!

  8. I firmly believe that these people who have enriched themselves in the name of Christianity will one day stand in front of God and answer to Him. The statistics are shocking!

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  9. I always remember a statement we were made to memorize by heart by one of our spiritual fathers, "A chi ti chiede da'." (Whoever asks of you, give)... without thoughts, without hesitations, without fear.

    We always see a starkling contrast between the rich and the poor...but between a wealthy church and people who face poverty and hunger is appalling. The Church, and you were referring to American churches, should take another look at where they expend their donations.

    I remember a scene in the movie Padre Pio di Pietralcina when he asked the Blessed Virgin if he could borrow Her crown and jewelries to sustain the poor coming to their church.

    It was a bit funny the way they made it, but I was so struck.How many of us could go an extra mile for the poor...a double mile if we could?

    Speaking of America, I spoke with an American friend last night and he told me of the economic crisis there. What is the role of the church there in alleviating a piece of this suffering?

    When you asked for possible solutions...I think the ministers of the American Churches should re-evaluate their vow of poverty to be able to see Christ in the poor. Otherwise, the Church will lose its significance and people will go elsewhere to look for Christ or for food in that matter.Someone should have the courage to stand up and raise this issue to their awareness without fear.

    The Church is a Church FOR the poor.

    We should never despair nor be disturbed of others' weaknesses, God gifts the Church with modern saints in times like this...it could be you in your own simple way.

    Today, is Pentecost Sunday,"Come Holy Spirit, renew the face of the earth."

  10. Quote of will roger “When the Okies left Oklahoma and moved to California, they raised the average intelligence level in both states” if we take riches of one man and the man and move him to the poor the average wealth of the poor and the wealthy will increase. The churches are given money and volunteers help feed and house the poor from their own lot. Grocers give tons of food to food banks, but the food they give is out dated and in some cases tainted just for a tax break. I have seen good christen clean out their cupboards of old can of food to be given to the poor, just for a tax break. This is not what Christ said or taught. Reading, learning and living his word is what make a person christen and maybe welcome in his kingdom. I cannot cast the first stone and I cannot condone the act of those who disabuse the charity that was given to the poor and needy. I wish and pray that we all can do better. It says I god we trust, but the big churches thrust our wallets and goodwill. What is the price of heaven? Sorry, This subject makes me very angry. Thank you and god bless

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  12. So many downers, So many Funds but still many peoples are home less poor. Why? where the money goes?

  13. I dont feel i can comment to much being non believing, but do feel like all large institution's the church has good and bad within it. I feel maybe the church in the UK has lost its way with people not seeing their good work. And was pleased when this happened http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2011/06/10/archbishop-of-canterbury-has-prime-minister-david-cameron-rattled-115875-23191396/ i hope the church begins to do more of this in the UK fighting for us in this time of awful cuts.

  14. m poor man i need 20000/US DOLLAR kindlly help me GOD bles u always my account no 01147900289803 HBL JHANG PAKISTAN kindly help me only for sake of
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