So this past week, my students have been doing standardized testing.  Which has left me with a lot of time to sit alone in an empty middle school hallway and make sure no one holds any of the teachers hostage.  Since no one did, I had a lot of free time.  So I’ve been re-reading Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller.  If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend it, whether you’re a believer or not.

In the midst of a season of life in which I’m feeling increasingly uninspired, reading this book has been like a breath of fresh air.  The book is littered with bright green post-it notes at this point in the week, reminders to me to go back and read and reflect and listen.  One portion specifically spoke to me this week.

“Andrew says it is not enough to be politically active.  He says legislation will never save the world.  On Saturday mornings, Andrew feeds the homeless.  He sets up a makeshift kitchen on a sidewalk and makes breakfast for people who live on the street.  He serves coffee and sits with his homeless friends and talks and laughs, and if they want to pray he will pray with them.  He’s a flaming liberal, really.  The thing about it is, though, Andrew believes this is what Jesus wants him to do.  Andrew does not believe in empty passion.

“All great Christian leaders are simple thinkers.  Andrew doesn’t cloak his altruism within a trickle-down economic theory that allows him to spend fifty dollars on a round of golf to feed the economy and provide jobs for the poor.  He actually believes that when Jesus says feed the poor, He means you should do this directly.

“Andrew is the one who taught me that what I believe is not what I say I believe; what I believe is what I do.

“If Andrew the Protester is right, if I live what I believe, then I don’t believe very many noble things.  My life testifies that the first thing I believe is that I am the most important person in the world.”

Ouch, ouch, ouch.  Several parts of that burn me to be honest, and have had me thinking for days.

First, the idea that legislation cannot save the world.  I think as Christians in America, we have come to feel that the greatest indicator of our spirituality is our politics.  My belief is that this is a load of crap.  Don’t get me wrong…I think where we stand on different issues does say a lot about what we believe.  But when we start to identify the word “Christian” with one political party or another, we have a problem.  The word “Christian” should be identified by one entity, and one alone: Christ.  Not Republican.  Not Democrat.  Not Obama.  Not Nobama.  When we deem ourselves fit to put Jesus Christ Himself in a political party…we are arrogant and narrow.

Second, the idea that when Jesus tells us to feed the poor, He means that we should do this directly.  This has been a huge conviction for me for the past year, because for the first time in my life, I have been thrown into an environment of poverty.  And I am daily plagued by the question, “What do I do about it?”  I grew up believing that you can’t really help the poor.  If you give money to homeless people, they’ll waste it.  If you “adopt” a child overseas through programs like Compassion International, you have no idea if the kid is getting your letters or money; they’ll probably waste it.  And on and on.  Well, fine, that may be the case, but the fact that we feel as though that gives us an excuse to neglect the poor concerns me.  There are other ways to provide for people’s needs.  It may require us to go out of our comfort zones, and to give up that “convenience” we seem to like so much.  And I realize that there are people in the world who are only poor because they are lazy.  BELIEVE ME, I understand that on a deeper level at this point than I ever have before.  But the character of Jesus keeps rolling over in my mind in regards to that.  In all the people He healed and took care of, He never once addressed WHY they had a need.  He met the need, and that was that.  He never once addressed whether or not they deserved to have their need met.  He just did it.  And God forbid He ever starts providing for me based on whether I deserve it or not.  That’ll be a bad day.

But I guess the real kicker for me was the idea that what I believe is what I do.  I can’t argue with Donald Miller here; I can’t say I’m any different than him.  My life is a testimony to the fact that I am mostly self-centered.  I mean, sure I work at a tough school with tough kids, but…I get paid for it, right? Would I do a job this hard if there weren’t something in it for me? Probably not.  I come home and cook dinner for my husband…but I eat off of that as well.

My life revolves around my needs.  And for once…I want to do something that has nothing to do with me.  Being selfish is exhausting sometimes.


One thought on “.what.you.do.

  1. Pattie Brewer says:

    So, as I read your post it brought me back to my own struggles of how do we react in the face of overwhelming poverty? My first instinct is that we should give sacrificially and unconditionally. When I have been to Haiti that is just what we did. We left with suitcases full of things to make our trip more comfortable and efficient and returned home with nothing but souvenirs bought from real Haitian vendors (helping them work to support their families) and our suitcases themselves. Everything else given away to those in need we encountered on the way. Back in the states that looked like giving away money and things as much as I could stand it. Then I started researching God’s design for dealing with poverty. I was tired of feeling guilty constantly. Sure my school required a certain dress code of slacks, but should I give away all my jeans as no one required me to wear them and someone else could really use them? How do you balance a budget and live with good stewardship yet give sacrificially. Then I noticed how God handled poverty in Israel. When He set up the country He told His people to let the poor glean from the fields. How many times did Jesus healing of people include the words, “Your faith has healed you.” Jesus wasn’t putting on a magic show pointing people to the wonderful healer, He was pointing them to God. God talks about the poor working for their living. After struggling with this I was led to the words of Dr. Dale Tackett by my sister in his study titled, “The Truth Project.” Here Dr. Tackett says it is not the role of the state or government to handle poverty. It is the role of labor (or business). For those with more money we are to provide jobs for people in whatever whats we can afford to allow them to earn money for themselves. Then we are allowing them to provide, to follow God and meet His provision, to create like the Creator creates. If I have money and my lawn needs mowed it is a godly thing to hire someone in need to mow it. Do I need help cleaning? Is there someone who can take left over materials from my business and sell them or use them to create something with market value? Instead of selling these items myself, I should allow those in need to do so. Is there training I can offer to those who want to do a job? God is leaving us as stewards of His money. Christ built relationships with the poor. He did not offer free help to those who were not seeking it. He did not push Himself on anyone. Instead He offered relationship with all, and when approached assistance provided assistance according to the abilities of the person needing it. He told some go wash for your healing, others he said stand and walk, others at the request of a loved one brought life to a dead body. Jesus always moved alongside someone seeking truth doing more for those who could do less and less for those who could do more. However each time He totally and completely offered them forgiveness. So, I believe it is my job to build relationships with all of God’s people of all walks of life. I am to share Christ not as a TV evangelist but as a friend. To those in need point to the true source of aid. Allow them to work with God and watch Him multiply their efforts to meet their needs. It is SO easy to elevate myself above the poor. Let me give you this. It is much more difficult to give them the dignity of being equal to me and asking for their help in return. In this way we are bartering and we are equal. I am aiding “the poor”, I am exchanging with a fellow human being. I have needs too. In this way I am MUCH more open to share who truly meets my needs. My Grandpa was a master at this. There were several students who had no money for school. My Grandpa offered them free room and board as well as paid their college expenses. In exchange these students helped out around the house (everything from yard work to repairs to cleaning to car maintenance whatever their skills were). I know the huge influence this had on their lives. They didn’t thank Grandpa as their benefactor. They followed his example as he thanked God for sending them to help him out. They thanked God for providing a job that put them through college. God commands us to work and not be lazy. I believe it is desperately wrong to only give handouts and not give people the opportunity to work in whatever way they can. Just look at the culture of Haiti. Although there are some who work very hard, there is a very large percentage of people that live only on the hand outs from internationals. I believe it is time for me to step out of my comfort zone not to merely be in the company of the poor giving them things in my holy attitude, but to humble myself and befriend people.

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