Let me apologize in advance for the antagonistic title. Before taking this controversial statement at face value, please read and wrestle with this post. Truthfully, I just want people to read it and figured that this title would be intriguing. It is something that I care very much about, and my hope is to begin a conversation that challenges us all.
After multiple “chance” conversations with strangers about standards of living, and reading a beautiful devotional by Sadhu Sadar Singh (as well as many other events), I believe that God is stretching my heart and mind to include my brothers and sisters around the globe who many wrongly call “less fortunate.”
With that said, please click “read more.”
“But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”-1 Corinthians 12:19-26
Last year, I took a Biblical Interpretation class that focused on 1 Corinthians. I loved it. It stretched my thinking about what the Biblical authors intended to say in their letters and to whom they intended to say it. One of the things that struck me the most was the extreme imbalance of wealth in the Corinthian church.
It does not take much study to notice Paul’s passion for unity between the rich and the poor. He constantly rebukes favoritism… be it in the assembly, in the valuing of spiritual gifts, in the leadership of the church, or in the taking of communion. He explains that God is sovereign and in his sovereignty has created not only each person, but their socio-economic, geographical, and cultural situation.
“The same breath is blown into the flute, cornet, and bagpipe, but different music is produced according to the different instruments. In the same way the one Spirit works in us, God’s children, but different results are produced, and God is glorified through them according to each one’s temperament and personality.”
-Sadhu Sadar Singh, With and Without Christ
There is rarely beauty in uniformity.
A color gains it’s impact when contrasted with a different color.
Our way of viewing the world is from our own personal vantage point. We are the center of our universe. It is not until we seek to understand the perspective of others that we can truly serve them in the best way.
If we call someone less fortunate… that shows favoritism for our way of life and standard of living.
Now let me take a moment and be CRYSAL CLEAR. I am NOT advocating for the end of world relief, cessation of giving of funds by financially blessed individuals, or continuation of systems of oppression. May this never be an excuse to abandon social justice. A doctor wouldn’t prescribe an antidote without understanding the disease.
May this open our eyes to the needs of our family as they themselves see them. May we remember that Jesus was homeless… and the richest man who ever lived. He turned the world’s system upside down and proclaimed good news to the poor and judgement upon the rich. We have got to stop pitying people with a different standard of living. Until we ask them what they think, we cannot label them as “less fortunate.” That would be arrogant.
I think that the most helpful thing concerned Christians can do to serve others is to love them. To love someone, we must know them for who they really are. Love isn’t just a feeling. It is a choice and an action. If we want to actively love the world, we have to ask it what it needs.
So let us never tell the flute to sound like a guitar or the bass to sound like a tambourine. Each instrument has a place that God designed. Repair the broken strings, but do not change the sound. If we ask what our family needs and listen with open hearts, they will tell us.
In a certain African village, an engaged man spends a year building a home for his future family. He crafts each brick with his hands, and his devotion to the house shows the rest of the village his devotion to his wife and children.
A group of westerners with the best intentions comes to his village with power tools and a contractor. They tell the man that he is poor and needs their help. In the course of a week, they build him a larger home than he ever could have built. Then, they leave and take the power tools with them.
The man shows his village the house, and when they realize that he did not build it himself, his wife is shamed. The village believes that he does not care enough about her to craft their home. Moreover, they now feel as if their mud brick homes are inadequate because of what the westerners told them.
We could simply feed the poor. But what would happen if we asked them how you can love them the best? We should probably be more wary of “instant” results because I’m learning that many times the problems afflicting others are deeply rooted and will take time (and, yes, money) to heal. We must be committed to each other long term lest a bandaid fall off.
Please pray for us as we wrestle with both the real and perceived needs of those around us. Know that we are praying for you to do the same. It’s humbling to realize that we are no one’s savior.
Only Jesus saves. At the same time, we have the gift of participation in his will. What amazing grace.