Monday, February 6, 2012

Lessons from Living With (But Not In) Poverty (Part 2)

A few years ago, I wrote about living with poverty, but not in poverty. 

My struggle has not ceased.
However, I have learned a great deal about poverty in these last few years.  I’ve read some great books on the subject.  I’ve learned from a few amazing, talented, passionate friends here in Tanzania who know so much about alleviating poverty through community development.  I’ve witnessed the impact of various economic systems both in Tanzanian and the U.S. 
And so I don’t feel so helpless anymore.  I still feel the urge to do more, and I pray often that God will convict me as to how He wants me to better use the resources He has given me.  I don’t have all the answers.  But I am starting to get a picture of what some of the answers might be.
And that’s what I want to share with you.  Because the things I have learned are universal; they don’t just apply to Africa. 
So here we go.

Lesson #1: 
When it comes to helping alleviate poverty, and to what God expects from me, God doesn’t want just my money.
We’ve established that I am rich.  You are rich.  We have far more money at our disposal than the vast majority of people in the world. 
But it’s not just how we use our money that God will hold us responsible for.
I am a healthy person.  And I have access to excellent health care.  Thus, I should have more energy to devote to serving others than most people in the world, who regularly, daily, struggle with health issues and have no options (not even WebMD!).
I am an educated person.  Since I have some post-college graduate training, I am one of the most educated people in the world.  How am I using my education to further God’s kingdom?  How I am wisely using the money and time that was invested in my education?  Since I know about the suffering in the world—of the unborn, of persecuted Christians, of those who are in slavery, how will I be held accountable for that knowledge?
I am a citizen of a country that allows religious freedom (most of the time!).  I am living in another country that also allows religious freedom.  Am I taking advantage of the opportunities for the gospel that gives me? 
I am rich in spiritual resources.  The number of Christian books, sermons, songs, and translations of the Bible that are available to me at the click of my finger is mind-boggling.  I have a better grasp of theology than most African pastors--not because I am more worthy or have more faith, but simply because I am American and have infinite opportunity to learn.  Yet why is my faith so much weaker than theirs?
And of course, the fact that I am a financially rich person also provides for more than just nice things.  I don’t need to labor all day to provide food for my family, so I have more time for service.  I am able to take lovely vacations, so I should be all the more useful and productive as a result. 
I am a Ten Talent Servant.  Am I using all of them?  Am I putting to use all of the abundant resources God has given me? 
We hear about those pastors in India who travel around by bicycle.  They get beaten up a lot by people who hate them.  They sleep under the stars and rely on the generosity of others in order to eat.  They have been given One Talent when it comes to resources and money and health.  They have nothing, yet they are furthering God’s kingdom in amazing ways.

So if they have One and are doing all that, and I have Ten, shouldn’t I be doing ten times as much?

Keep reading:  Part 3
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