I am reading a great book called ‘The Hole in the Gospel’ by Richard Stearns who is the President for World Vision. Anyone who knows me I hate talking about money and discussing money things but at the end of the day it is important. The book is about how we as Christians want to follow God yet there are so many of his commands which we ignore. We are completely ignorant to what is going on in the rest of the world when there is so much we could be doing and so much God has called us to do. Don’t get me wrong there is no doubt the most important thing is to go and share the gospel and to make disciples. However if we read numerous passages in the bible about our actions, in particular Matthew ch 25 v 31- 46 God clearly asks us to do more. This book is very very challenging and also gives some stastics which I could not believe. I normally don’t share things here but I really feel I want to and even though most of it is about money I think it is important. Richard Stearns says ‘The bible devotes twice as many verses to money as it does to faith and prayer combined and fully 15% of Jesus’ recorded words dealt with money.’ All the statics are based on the church in America……
• If your income is $25,000 US per year you are wealthier than approximately 90% of the world’s population.
• Of the 6.7 billion people on the earth almost half live on less than $2 per day.
• 93% of the world’s population do not own a car therefore if you do you are in the 7% that do.
• The total income of American churchgoers is $5.2 trillion, it would take just a little over 1% of the income of American Christians to lift the poorest one billion people in the world out of extreme poverty.
• If every American churchgoer tithed, there would be an extra $168 billion,they could literally change the world. Universal primary education for children would cost $6 billion, clean water to most of the world’s poor $9 billion, basic health and nutrition for everyone in the world, $13 billion.
Here is a letter he has written to the church directly from the words words of Jesus. Before he starts he also says ‘I realize this violated every rule of sound biblical exegesis, but I think you will agree that it works-it speaks to us with truth and with bluntness.’
These are the words of the one who holds the seven stars and walks among the golden lamp stands. I know your deeds. You live in luxury and self indulgence because you have forgotten your first love. I hold this against you. Woe to those of you who add house to house and join field to field til no space is left. Surely the great houses will become desolate, the fine mansions left without occupants.
Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but you have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded you wealth in the last days. You say ‘I am rich ;I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ Yet it is those who are poor in the eyes of the world that are rich in faith. I have chosen them to inherit the kingdom I have promised to those who love me. Therefore, do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy. And thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Seek first my kingdom and my righteousness, and all these other things will be given to you aswell. Remember, even I, the Lord Jesus Christ, though I was rich, for your sakes became poor, so that you, through my poverty might become rich.
Why do you call me, ‘Lord Lord,’ but do not do what I say. Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says, for whoever obeys my commands-that is the one who loves me.
What does the Lord require of you, you ask? To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. In fact the entire law is summed up in a single command, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’
There will always be poor people in the land. I command you to be open-handed toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in the land. Defend the cause of the weak and the fatherless, maintain the rights of the poor and the oppressed.
Now let’s talk about fasting. You cannot fast as you do today and except your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? It is only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? No, this is the fast that I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke. It is to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood. 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.
Even now, return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love and he relents from sending calamity.
I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love. Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Why spend money on what is not bread and labour on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Then you will call and I will answer: you will cry for help, and I will say, ‘Here am I,’ If you do away with the yoke of oppression with the pointing finger and the malicious talk and if your spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become as noonday. I will guide you always, I will satisfy your needs in a sun scorched land and strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
Therefore my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in Vain.
I am coming soon, My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.
The book really challenged me about what I am doing with my money which God has blessed me with. God has put us where we are for a reason,I often wonder why did I deserve to be born in Northern Ireland instead of Haiti. Where I was able to grow up in a nice house, with my family, able to eat everyday, able to go to school and if I was sick I was able to go to the doctor. Why did I deserve that compared to the kids I meet here in Haiti everyday who live in a small mud hut, not having much to eat, not being able to afford to go to school or the doctor if they are sick. And I’m not just talking about Haiti, add on Africa, eastern Europe, South America, China and even areas of our own country.
So……….what am I going to do about it?
I believe as christians it is our responsibility to help the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked and heal the sick. We get so consumed with stuff and at the end of the day when we die we cannot bring any of it with us. Yet with the money we use to buy ‘stuff’ there is so much more we can be doing which God can use to change lives. We can send children to school who have no other means, pay for medical care for people who cannot afford to, help a family start a small business so they can support themselves, provide clean water for a village, help build a house/school/ church, pay for bibles for people who cannot afford them, pay for airtime for Christian radio stations, I could go on………..maybe your thinking ok that’s good but how?
There are so many Christian organisations which have these sort of opportunities which need support and prayer to fund these projects so they not only preach the love of God but also show the love of God through their actions ( Tearfund, world vision, Abanna are just to name a few).
Richard Stearns really writes much better than me so I will finish with some of his words….
‘When historians look back in one hundred years, what will they write about this nation of 340,000 churches? What will they say of the church‘s response to the great challenges of our time- AIDS, poverty, hunger, terrorism and war? Will they say authentic Christians rose up courageously and responded to the tide of human suffering? Will they write of an unprecedented outpouring of generosity to meet the urgent needs of the world’s poor?
Or will they look back and see a church too comfortable, insulated from the pain of the rest of the world, empty of compassion, and devoid of deeds? Will they write about a people who stood by and watched while a hundred million died of AIDS and fifty million children were orphaned, of Christians who lived in luxury and self indulgence while millions died of food and water? Will schoolchildren read in disgust about a church that had wealth to build great sanctuaries but lacked the will to build schools, hospitals and clinics? In short will we be remembered as the church with a gaping whole in the gospel?