One of the things that I hate about going to Target and Wal Mart here in the states is knowing that I am going to be asked to give something to someone standing outside the door saying “God bless you,” and promoting a ministry of some kind. I don’t like saying no to charitable causes, but I don’t like having to decide on the fly whether something is legit or not and so I say “no” and I feel terrible and then after a few times I don’t feel too bad but I feel bad for not caring- man, I have deep resentment for Target and Wal Mart.
There are myriads of ways that my visit to South Asia has impacted me. You can’t help but be impacted by the stark reality lived out in HD clarity before your eyes and nose. The reality that 10,000 girls are locked up within a few miles of where I lived and their lives were spent in forced participation in activities which they are not old enough to even know about.
We got approached multiple times every day in every part of the city by beggars. Some were legit and some were, as I was told, part of a gang that uses kids to beg for money but they never see any of the money they raise. It gives me that old “wal mart” feeling and so we would usually just give them one of the snacks we had in our backpacks. Only once did a lady say thank you and then eat the snack I gave. Often they looked at me, like “What the Heck!” and asked for something else. But it was hard on a daily basis to be confronted with the need for discernment over and over and over again and you couldn’t help but be moved by the desperation on display. That changes you.
I was reading this morning in David Platt’s book, Radical. I got through a couple of paragraphs and had to put the book down and begin writing. He had been talking about the parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus. Normally, he said, we would identify with the sympathetic character and shake our heads at the rich man that “just didn’t get it.” He passed the poor man every day and didn’t share any of his wealth. Platt writes, “I am much like the rich man (as am I) and the church I lead looks a lot like him too (as does mine). Every Sunday we gather in a multimillion-dollar building with millions of dollars in vehicles parked outside. We leave worship to spend thousands of dollars on lunch before returning to hundreds of millions of dollars worth of homes. We live in luxury.”
Now the American dream has been the pursuit of being comfortably rich – some take that to become filthy rich, but just enough to enjoy life and liberty while pursuing happiness is where most of us dwell. Platt continues,
“Meanwhile, the poor man is outside our gate and he is hungry. In the time we gather for worship on a Sunday, almost a thousand children elsewhere die because they have no food…at most, we are throwing our scraps to them while we indulge in our pleasures here.” Yikes.
I am challenged by these words. You can add to this the reality of spiritual poverty and spiritual enslavement as well. People who are hungry for Jesus but they have never tasted and seen that the Lord is good. How much of the world’s population has never heard the gospel? While these children (and men and women) die of starvation, what will await them in eternity? And in much the same way, we are happy to enjoy the blessings of being God’s children but too often less than committed to share it.
I am not sure how to live in light of these things. Hannah and I have seen physical and spiritual poverty up close. It smells bad. We are now stewards of this. So what will we do? That’s a great question. I think I am going to start by talking it over with the family. How can we live as a family in light of the things we know to be true? What can we do? What changes can we make?
How about you?