While flying to Bangkok I had many tear-filled moments. I was reading Richard Stearns's heartbreaking, hopeful The Hole in Our Gospel: What Does God Expect of Us?, and Siddharth Kara's soul- troubling Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery.
In Kara's book the poorest of the poor are bought and sold as sex slaves to satisfy the desires of the rich. In Stearns's book we see rich Christians watching flat-screen TVs and viewing the world's poor suffer.
Something is wrong with this picture.
i. ...was not wealthy. While foxes have holes and birds have nests, Jesus didn't have a roof over his head. Jesus didn't have closets packed with robes and sandals for every occasion. (Matthew 8:20)
ii. ...was not impressed with the rich and famous. Jesus mostly viewed the rich and famous as spiritually bankrupt. It's near-impossible for the rich to come under the rule of God, taught Jesus. (Mark 10:23) Note: "Anyone earning fifty thousand a year has an income higher than 99 percent of the people in the world. Simply stated, by comparison the average American is, well, wealthy." (Stearns, 266)
iii. ...did not come to raise money for his ministry. Jesus didn't carry cash. Jesus was always giving away to others. Ironically, Judas carried what little money the entourage of Jesus had. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. (John 13:29)
iv. ...did not come for the express purpose of multiplying your finances. To the contrary, Jesus said: Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. (Luke 12:32-34) Jesus came to tell us what true riches are.
v. ...did not operate according to cultural honor-shame hierarchies. Jesus climbed down the ladder, took on the form of an "expendable," and descended intio greatness. This is the upside-down kingdom of God. It permeates the Gospels. For example, in Mary's song of amazement: He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. (Luke 1:46-56)
vi. ...was not self-seeking. Jesus came, not to be served, but to serve others. (Matthew 20:28)It was Jesus who told us in Matthew 6:24 – “You can’t serve both God and Mammon.” (‘Mammon’ is the Aramaic word for riches or wealth.) Riches, said Jesus, put a chokehold on the kingdom of God. (Luke 8:13-15) Riches prevent the releasing of God's reign.
Scott Rodin writes, in his book Stewards in the Kingdom:
"We must never for single moment lose sight of the stark realization that whenever we deal with money, we are dealing with dynamite. That is the one day that which we control, the next day becomes the controller. Such dynamite must be defused, and the greatest defuser that we as Christians have at our disposal is the opportunity to take that which seeks to dominate us and simply give it away. Think about it. There is not greater expression of money's total lack of dominance over us or of its low priority in our lives than when we can with joy and peace, give it away for the Lord's work. You cannot worship the God of mammon and be a free and cheerful giver. Likewise, you cannot serve the living God and be a hoarder of his resources. Giving, both how we give and how much we give, is the clearest outward expression of who our God really is. Our check stubs speak more honestly of our priorities than our church memberships." (Quoted in Stearns, 212)
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
- Paul, advising Timothy, in 1 Timothy 6:10
A few reviews of Stearns's book:
"With passionate urging and earnestness, Rich Stearns challenges Christians to embrace the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ by embracing the neediest and most vulnerable among us. After reading the moving stories, the compelling facts and figures, and Stearns' excellent application of scripture and his own experiences at World Vision, you will no doubt be asking yourself: What should I do?" ----Chuck Colson, Founder, Prison Fellowship
"Read this compelling story and urgent call for change-Richard Stearns is a contemporary Amos crying 'let justice roll down like watersâ€¦.' Justice is a serious gospel-prophetic mandate. Far too many American Christians for too long a time have left the cause to 'others.' Read it as an altar call." -- --Eugene H. Peterson, translator of The Message, Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Theology, Regent College, Vancouver, BC
"This book is a clarion call for the church to arise and answer the question, Who is my neighbor? If you read this book, you will be inspired, but if you do what this book is asking, you will be forever changed." --- T.D. Jakes, pastor of the Potter's House of Dallas
My two books are: