I’ve noticed something that we Americans, especially American Christians, do frequently:
When being asked something that feels too “personal” and invades our private sensibilities, we shift into giving sweeping generalizations, philosophical ramblings, and ambiguous blessings.
Here are some examples:
Q. Do you give money to beggars?
A. That’s a tough one. I’ve heard that some of these guys actually make more money in a day standing at an intersection holding a sign than they would if they went out and got a legitimate job. And a friend of mine told me they saw a guy leave his corner where he was begging, walked across the street to a Starbucks parking lot, and got into his Mercedes. By the way, have you read that book When Giving Hurts? I heard it’s really good.
Answer deflected. Intelligent and informed sounding conversation—even mentioned a book title.
Q. What is your church doing to meet real needs in the community?
We believe God cares about the broken, the hurting, and the poor. He sees every need—nothing is hidden from Him. Each week, we pray that God would restore, heal, and bless the least fortunate in our community. We have faith, knowing that God is able, for every need to be met in the name of Jesus. We are believing for a rising tide of God’s presence in our city! When people encounter Jesus, their lives are transformed. Government programs and intervention isn’t the answer. The church is the hope of the world!
Uh, so what is the church doing again? Oh yeah, praying. Hmmm.
Q. Do you tithe?
I’ve thought a lot about this subject and would say I’ve been on a journey of sorts recently in the area of giving. My perspective has evolved. Of course, I grew up in the church where this was taught. But there’s a lot of legalism that surrounds the issue. I totally believe in generosity and I am a generous person—not as generous as I want to be, but I’m definitely growing in it. I love what Bill Gates has done through his foundation and I find generosity to be so inspiring, you know what I mean?
Crisis averted, no answer given. And we all feel good about “generosity.”
You might have noticed that all three of these examples have to do with the same basic issue…
Nothing moves us into sweeping generalizations, philosophical ramblings, and ambiguous blessings like the topic of what we do with our money!
Because it’s always easier to sound good than it is to do good.
Have you ever wondered what the Priest and the Levite said to themselves as they moved to the other side of the road, away from the robbed and beaten man in Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan?
I’ll tell you what they said.
The Priest saw the man and thought, “He needs a miracle. I must pray for him.” And so the priest whispered this pray:
Father, you alone are able. Uphold this suffering man by your strong right hand. Nothing is impossible for you. Give him a speedy and complete recovery. I pray your angels would surround him—and place a hedge of protection all about him. Bless him in every way, Father. Amen.
The Levite saw the man and thought, “This man has been running with the wrong crowd,” and he developed a theory about why the man was in such a terrible spot:
I doubt he’s paid one cent of taxes in his life. He’s been a scam artist, living off the government (which means off the backs of hard-working tax payers like myself). He’s obviously an addict, abusing both drugs and alcohol. This man has chosen a life of crime and rebellion. Well, crime pays, and he has received his due reward—we all reap what we sow. Maybe someday he will finally hit rock bottom and realize his need to repent and become a productive member of society.
The Priest and the Levite, when faced with that awkward question of “What will you do about this?” – a question far too personal and invasive—shifted into giving sweeping generalizations, philosophical ramblings, and ambiguous blessings.
We do the same thing.
But the Bible has something to say about this…
Brothers and sisters, if you happen to see someone who is without clothing or food and you respond by saying, “Be blessed my friend! Be warm and well-fed” —but don’t actually give them food or clothing or any help at all, what you have done is given them “blessings” that amount to a load of crap. —James 2.15, 16 BDV
The Message Bible puts it this way: “God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense.”
The truth is, we are regularly presented with opportunities to be part of a miracle—to make a real difference in the lives of others by doing something, not just saying something.
And when that opportunity presents itself, we must answer…
Q. Will you be part of the miracle?
A. Just a simple YES or NO. If YES, we must answer one more question.
Q. What (specifically) will you do?
A. Specific, tangible, and measurable: I will do________________.
I don’t know about you, but I want to be part of the miracle. I’m tired of giving sweeping generalizations, philosophical ramblings, and ambiguous blessings. Let’s put an end to “blessings” that amount to a load of crap!
Are you with me? Let’s be part of the miracle together.