Giving God.

Sometimes you read things that just don’t make sense to you.  My friend Riley posted a sickening stat on his facebook one day: “The human family will spend $450 billion on Christmas this year. $10 billion could help ensure access to clean water for every child on the planet.”  According to the UN’s “Safer Water, Better Health” report, $11.3 Billion annually will dramatically change the lives of those who currently do not have access to clean water. Everything from less child mortality, more opportunities for work, more time for children in school, and above all more access to life. When I first read the statistic it seemed that it was saying $10 billion dollars total and the problem would be solved: it didn’t seem real. Upon further review, after Riley showed me the report, it made sense that $11.3 billion is needed annually.

Either way, the number and the problem sickens me, as it should sicken all of us. In the time that it has taken me to write this post, I drank 3 glasses of water, 1 of which my pregnant wife poured for me as I sat lazily in front of my computer. Some people who do have access to clean water need to walk miles before they ever taste a drop of it. And to think every year we spend 9x what it would cost to bring life giving water to the people of the world on junk that we were able to get by without before December 25 (actually…wait…on second thought…that iPod Touch 4 was a necessity. How else am I supposed to kill pig monsters without my Angry Birds? Seriously! Think about it!)

It seems that our thoughts first go to the government. Can’t we  just stop funding NASA and give it to those in need? We all know aliens are not out there now. Can’t we just ask the billionaires to give a billion or two? Can’t we just print more money like we always do in America? We are a lot of people with a lot of money, can we please just share it? America is very giving, there is no question about that. And we also have trillions of dollars in debt (what does a trillion even look like? Yikes!). Either way, yeah, it would be nice for the rich to give to the poor, but in the end, this is not the responsibility of a single government. Rather, it is the responsibility of the individual to see and react to the needs around him, and ultimately it is the responsibility of the People of God to give as they have been given to.

If you have not done so yet, go and read RADICAL by David Platt. In this book he encourages Christians to take up the call of God on our lives and to use our blessing to be a blessing to others.  There is no doubt that the American Church has been blessed out of its mind financially, but sometimes we don’t realize how blessed we actually are. I can’t remember if it was in Platt’s book or somewhere else where I read this terrible story. Someone was looking over a bulletin from their denomination, and on the left side of the front page there was a picture and a headline about a church opening the doors on their new $5 million dollar building project. Adjacent to this headline was another headline about a church raising $5,000 for a clean water project. Something seems amiss, doesn’t it? Just downright wrong.

It is easy to point fingers at the corporate church, but what is it that makes up the church? Is it not a bunch of individuals? We ought to look to our own wallets and our own hearts before we point any fingers at anyone else. Take coffee for example. Americans, according to one report, spend more than $17 billion on coffee per year, averaging roughly $160 annually per coffee drinking person. And let’s face it: one of the only things Christians do as good as they eat is drink coffee. Christians have to have a disproportionate piece of that pie and I can assure you my family plays our part in this pleasure!

But that is just coffee. What about fast food? Restaurants? Random items at the checkout stand? Movies? Clothes you wear once? Books you don’t read? Cable channels you don’t watch? Dessert? The daily things that we buy just because we can.

Don’t get me wrong, wealth is a gift from God, not a curse from Satan. All cultures have their delights and luxuries that they indulge in. Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding everyone had “drunk freely”, for crying out loud! I am not saying that we should deprive ourselves of all things “unnecessary” in our lives.  But I echo Platt’s point throughout “Radical,” and that is simply to take the blessing that has been given to you and bless others with it.  We spend more than enough on ourselves.

I was standing in line at Starbucks on Christmas morning and the woman in front of me said to the woman beside her, “we all need to do something good for ourselves every now and then.” What a statement loaded with blindness!

I had a need and God met it. I was an enemy of God, and at that time Christ died for me (Romans 5:8-10). I was bound for Hell, smiling ear to ear as I rebelled against Him, yet it was then that He reconciled me to himself (Colossians 1:21-22).  He gave Himself for me (Titus 2:14). Physically, he has blessed me with all that I have, from the air I breath (Acts 17:25) to the food that I eat to the children that I have (Psalm 127:3) to the place where I live (Acts 17:26), and ultimately, the wealth that I have comes from Him. Who am I, then, to horde all that I have, shoving all of my own wealth down my throat and into my belly instead of giving it to those in need?

There is much to say about savings for the future, about enjoying the blessings that have been given to us, about enjoying the life that God has given to us. That is a part of the conversation, but to be honest it is the part of the conversation that we usually use to justify ourselves before our own selfish hearts. The question that we need to ask ourselves is this: do I have a giving heart?

The Gospel is a gift from God. We are to be emulators of Jesus Christ. We are to be givers, giving from giving hearts that have been changed by the giving love and grace of God. The issues are numerous: clean water, adoption, microloans, child slavery, child soldiers, disaster relief, HIV/AIDS, the list can go on as it always will until King Jesus comes and wipes away every tear. But the question is clear: what are you going to do? Shannon and I are wrestling with how to use our money; it is a very tough and heavy issue. To start, pray that God will work in your heart a spirit of giving that reflects the giving nature of our great God. Then look around you.

And give.


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