Jan 5: Questions

Now I wonder. What gives me the right to close my door? Is it because I need a break? That my cultural upbringing is such that personal time is important? Every time I want to use one of our advantages, like the computer, an extra drink, some chocolate I find myself asking the question “why am I so special that I should be able to enjoy this but no one else?” Because it’s mine?

I’m reminded of Mother Theresa who wouldn’t wear shoes until all the people around her had shoes. What would our meals look like if we did that?

But then, what happens after we leave? Is there any real value in giving, even everything we have, only to leave in a couple months? Couldn’t we end up making things worse, rather than better, with in increased dependency on others? And what if we were to create expectations about hand-outs that would drive other people away?

Some might say better to have enjoyed a few months in comfort than none at all. But is that true, or does it just make the rough times harder? Don’t many people find work harder after having enjoyed a long vacation?

Clearly in our short time here we will not make a big difference in many peoples lives, or can we? Could we identify one need we could meet? What about one family we could help? Would there be a way we could train someone? Perhaps this trip is simply learning enough that we can be of better help in the future. Can we model for others what it looks like to be generous, to love others, to look after your kids? I don’t know; its relatively easy to be generous when you have plenty and know your own livelihood isn’t on the line. Would a poor person see it as generous for us to leave our rich North American lifestyle to spend 0.3% of our life living comfortably in a poor neighborhood? All the while doing little work, having many appliances, house cleaning, money for taxi’s, food, and treats? Do you think Bill Gates is generous for giving as much as he has? Hmmm.

Then I remember Jesus and the model he and his disciples set. Living on the road, relying on food from others, and at times so hungry that they had to try pick leftover grain after the harvest to feed themselves (See Matt 12:1). All this so that they could meet a few peoples physical needs and share with as many people as possible the greatest news of all time?

If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Luke 6:29b, 30

All I can figure is that the best thing we can do is try model this generosity while supporting the local people and organizations who will ultimately be able to affect a change. Perhaps the lesson to be learned, self evident in retrospect, is that real change can only be accomplished when one aligns their life to serving those around them wherever they are.

Do those of us who claim to be following Jesus need to start taking his teaching a little more literally? “Go out into the world”, “feed the hungry”, “visit those in prison”. It’s almost like there is a continuum of generosity and Jesus is asking us to be all the way to the generous side.

Generosity Spectrum

Generosity Spectrum

I can see many problems with the above already, but its a start, and it does beg the questions “Where am I?” and “where would I like to be?”

What brought all this on was dinner with a Haitian who I had sponsored for many years through his schooling. He just happens to be living in La Vega right now. We took him out for dinner and enjoyed hearing about the work he does ministering to fellow Haitians. What really got my attention was how generous he was with those around him. Despite still being in a situation of tight finances he never passed an opportunity to share with the people who asked, even if that was a simple as giving them the last of his drink.

6 Comments »

  1. Comment by bob perkins the elder

    [quote]
    Do those of us who claim to be following Jesus need to start taking his teaching a little more literally? “Go out into the world”, “feed the hungry”, “visit those in prison”. It’s almost like there is a continuum of generosity and Jesus is asking us to be all the way to the generous side.
    [/quote]
    What is the foundation of these teachings? Is it?
    Mat 22:37 And He said to him, ” ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’
    Mat 22:38 “This is the great and foremost commandment.
    Mat 22:39 “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’
    Mat 22:40 “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

    And there is the great commission. How does that fit into all of this?
    Mat 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
    Mat 28:20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

    [quote]Clearly in our short time here we will not make a big difference in many peoples lives, or can we?[/quote]
    IMO you can make a big difference in one or more people’s lives. The biggest difference is if you leave behind one or more disciples — a changed life due to trusting in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins leads to obeying the greatest and second commandments.

    -Bob

  2. Comment by bob perkins the elder

    P.S.
    Brad, I appreciate the earnest questions you presented here. It stimulated my thinking along these lines, and I’m glad you are doing this trip…it is faith-stretching for sure.
    P.S.S
    Looking forward to seeing you all in April at the wedding.

  3. Comment by Mike King

    Great questions Brad. They been stirring in me for 2 years since reading Living As an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne. As easy as it is to think of those lives we do impact, the point of lasting impact is the real question I guess. An example of living more like Jesus and that area of generosity is important to demonstrate and I think does have great impact to change this world, regardless of making disciples or not. Of course converting lives to Jesus would be better but the example is impactful, and it impacts everyone’s lives you interact with (you can include me in that!). On the other side, I don’t think Satan missed any opportunities to do even just a little bit to try to destroy a life, so why wouldn’t even bit to save one (even if it’s not the turning point) be valuable. That is what I value, which certainly makes living without continual disappointment easier and adds that peace of mind to continue to make a difference. I think the questions here do help push people to take this further though and it deepens faith and trust in the Lord to act on it.

  4. Comment by Brad Davis

    Bob – thanks for your comments, I completely agree. The two greatest commandments are definitely the foundation of all Jesus’s teachings, in his own words and by analysis. You probably recognized the Mark 16:15 version of the great commission in the post. What we are wrestling with is the idea that many people, ourselves included, are living a basically North American lifestyle while claiming to be following these teachings. But can both be true at the same time? It seems there are two possible problems. The first extreme is that one can claim to be following the two greatest commandments but not show any of the outward signs (fruits of the spirit, caring for the poor, visiting prisoners) thus proving that the former isn’t true. Or the second extreme is doing all the outward signs as an end unto themselves, in which case the person themselves still has a problem (like Matt 16:26). My gut feeling is that many of us are erroring on the side of the first (while many churches are erroring on the side of preaching the second). Sure we might tack onto the typical lifestyle attending Church, a small group, some service, and some giving, but are we really going _out_ _into_ the world? Are we taking up our cross daily (Luke 9:23)? Could 5/6 of the world remain in poverty if all of us who call ourselves Christians sold our possessions and gave them to the needy as did the early church (Acts 2:45)? And we would still have a social security net to fall back on!

    I also completely agree with your second point. The pragmatist in me is still cautious about converts that aren’t connected to the local church, and the challenge of not unduly influencing others because of our cultural position. Both tend to result in non life long commitments. What we’d really like is to be able to demonstrate this to our kids as well.

    Either way I hope these have stirred up questions in many people (Christian & Others) as they are great questions to wrestle with. I’m not trying to praise or critisize anyone, just sharing some of the questions on our mind.

    We’re looking forward to the wedding as well. When’s your finance going to get her side of the story up on the blog??

    Mike – Great points. Many times Jesus met peoples physical needs as a way of demonstrating God’s desire/ability to meet other needs. I’m glad to here this kept those questions stirring. They’re sure be stirred in us.

  5. Comment by bob perkins the elder (age 63)

    As I hope you can tell now, I am Bob the younger’s dad, so I have no fiance’. LOL. I see Loriann has finally got something up on their blog, though it is very brief. Busy girl…no time to write much!

    Here’s a couple of other things to consider (to round out the picture), talking about having discernment in our benevolence and generosity, plus all we do is in His power, not our own. (NASB)

    2 Thessalonians 3:10
    For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.

    Phillipians 3:12-13
    So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;
    for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

    1 Timothy 5:3-16
    Honor widows who are widows indeed; but if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God.

    Now she who is a widow indeed and who has been left alone, has fixed her hope on God and continues in entreaties and prayers night and day. But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives. Prescribe these things as well, so that they may be above reproach. But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

    A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work.

    But refuse to put younger widows on the list, for when they feel sensual desires in disregard of Christ, they want to get married, thus incurring condemnation, because they have set aside their previous pledge. At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention. Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach; for some have already turned aside to follow Satan.

    If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed.

  6. Comment by Brad Davis

    Now I understand who this is! I thought when you used “the elder” you meant in the biblical sense. Of course when you quoted scripture that only reinforced the idea. Thanks for stopping by and posting. We appreciate your comments. Clearly we must rely on God for discernment and trust that he will work through our iniquity.

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