Poverty is one of the most pressing issues in the world today. Despite our best efforts we still have a very long way to go. Children continue to die of hunger, people still make the choice between food and education, some will never have the opportunity to fulfill their potential, simply because there’s not enough.
In an era when it has been reported by the bank, Credit Suisse in November 2017, that the world’s richest 1% own half the world’s wealth, the other side of the coin is that the 3.5 billion poorest adults each have assets of less than $10,000. These people, who account for 70% of the world’s working age population, own just 2.7% of the global wealth.
None of us can fail to notice that there are crises at the gates of every culture and nation. War and famine produce refugees in numbers that are untenable. Our broken economies are driven by the greed of those for whom the almighty dollar has far greater value than the life of one small child, one refugee, one trafficked woman, one homeless person.
Not the least of our problems is the lack of good leadership. When the prophet Daniel was interpreting King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream about his future insanity, he pleaded with him to change his ways (Daniel 4:27) in order to avoid the catastrophic effect of his pride. His key point was that he ‘break from his wicked past and be merciful to the poor’. Integral to really good leadership is mercy for the poor.
And yet, the groundswells of ordinary people have been so significant as to show that, despite the lack of mercy within governments and among rulers, every nation is populated with citizens who rise above the ignorance and indifference of their leaders to find ways to meet the needs around them. The Old Testament has some advice about how to any of us can do this.
When you reap the harvest of your land, you are not to reap to the very edge of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You must not strip your vineyard bare or gather its fallen grapes. Leave them for the poor and the foreign resident; I am the Lord your God. (Lev. 19:9-10) (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
God didn’t mind that the owner of the field was wealthy, but he was concerned that they share what they had with others not so fortunate. This is what made the difference to Ruth when she returned with Naomi. The rich landowner, Boaz, instructed his staff to deliberately drop extra grain for her during harvesting. Every day she went home with a large portion of food for herself and her mother in law. How does this translate for we who live in a mechanised society and who buy our grain in a plastic bag at the supermarket?
Many of us live to the outside edges of our salaries, with little room to move. Our finances are maxed out. When we see a need, we are so weighed down by financial commitments that we have no room to manoeuvre, no money that isn’t already designated. Our hearts are saddened or hardened because there’s nothing we can do about the needs around us.
Live simply, so that others may simply live. – Ghandi
So many of us are in overload as far as our cost of living is concerned. We have so many needs, and those needs cost money. We need that extra special car that will make heads turn. We need a house that suits our status. Our holidays become more exotic and expensive with every pay rise. Our credit cards are full, and we only just manage to pay the interest. We live to the limits of our budget, the very edges of our fields … and then we grieve because we see real and desperate needs, poverty in the world around us and we turn away and sigh or cry because we have no way of meeting those needs; we’ve stripped our vineyards bare.
I know people who capped their own salaries. They have two good cars, a nice house and a comfortable lifestyle. They felt they had enough and made the decision to give away everything over and above the amount they’d set their life style at. This family has funded houses for HIV+ orphans, a pig farm, contributed to specific needs of other families, provided equipment for ministries, and any number of other projects. They’ve learned the secret of leaving something for the gleaners, providing for the poor, and the strangers in the land.
God doesn’t require us to be poor. He gets no glory or pleasure in His people being broke, but we are such creatures of extreme that we legalistically take sides on one side of the Christian perspective on finances or the other. We think we should have nothing or everything, but God doesn’t lay down a law over those things. He wants to bless us, but He doesn’t want us to use all that blessing up on ourselves. He wants us to know how to pay it forward.
Regardless of whether you earn a little or a lot, the call for us to share what we have is to all of us. If we are to follow through on that lifestyle, we first must make the decision not live to the very edges, so that we always have enough money uncommitted to allow us to contribute to the needs of others. That doesn’t mean writing huge cheques to fund the new jet for a televangelist or giving your last cent to the visiting preacher. It’s about seeing the needs around you and making the decision to do what Jesus said – feed the hungry.
When our lifestyle makes provision for the needs of God’s people, He makes sure we have enough for our own needs. It isn’t easy and may take time, particularly when you have to extricate yourself from debt and financial commitments in order to do it but ask God to give to you so that you can give beyond yourself. He’s totally willing to provide our needs, but I think it thrills His heart when we ask for more, so that we can provide for the needs of others too. And then, when He gives you more, stick to your decision to pass it on, rather than deciding you need it after all.
Bev Murrill has been a senior church leader for more than three decades both in Australia and UK. She has a Masters degree in Global Leadership from Fuller Theological Seminary USA, writes for various magazines and is the author of two books – Speak Life and Shut the Hell Up, andCatalysts: You Can Be God’s Agent For Change. Bev is the founder of Christian Growth International, Liberti Magazine UK, Cherish Uganda, Kyria Network for women leaders UK and Australia, and Scarlet Women. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!