Posts Tagged ‘charity’

Deuteronomy 23:24-25

Alleviating Hunger

 

There was a song, released in 1970, by a group called the Five Man Electrical Band entitled “Signs” where part of the lyrics said this:

 

And the sign said anybody caught trespassin’ would be shot on sight

So I jumped on the fence and-a yelled at the house

“Hey! What gives you the right?”

“To put up a fence to keep me out or to keep mother nature in”

“If God was here he’d tell you to your face, man, you’re some kinda sinner”

 

It was definitely a protest song against the status quo of the establishment culture. All of us are about protecting our property nowadays and preventing others from stealing it or enjoying it without our permission. Written by Five Man Electrical Band lead singer Les Emmerson, this song is a prescient look at class divisions and property rights. Emmerson wrote the song after taking a road trip on Route 66 in California, where he noticed a plethora of billboards that obscured the beautiful scenery. This posed a question: Who is allowed to put up signs that interfere with nature? This led to another query: Who gets to make the rules that appear on so many signs? The song gave voice to those without power or property rights, which in many cases, were the young and the poor. Our society has become less about caring for one another and more about amassing property and protecting it.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I am a Republican and I believe in hard work and I do not believe in creating classes of people who lose the value of hard work through governmental support programs. There should be, in my mind, no permanent government help programs. All of them should be designed in such a way to push people back toward independence. There should be no government programs that perpetuate dependence on the programs themselves. There should be no government programs that create a class of people who have no desire or incentive to go back to work. There should be no government programs that are so attractive in the benefits that they provide that it is a penalty for a person to get a real job making real wages and paying real taxes. Except for a couple of very short periods of unemployment, I have worked continually since I was age 14. I have always wanted to work and worked hard at whatever I have had as a job. Therefore, having sympathy for those who seem unwilling or desirous of working for a wage, whatever that may be, just blows my mind. I realized at my first job, at the Furman University Dining Hall, cleaning up after snotty nosed rich kids that I did not want this to be my life. It began a journey of working hard to continually better my skills, education, and experience. I realized then that the minimum wage is just a starting place and that if I wanted more I needed get more experience, education and skills to move beyond where I started from. I never saw the Furman Dining Hall as a career destination.

 

Having said all that, we do now live in a society of government programs for this and government programs for that. Our federal and state governments are behemoths now compared to what they were just say 75 years ago. We now look for the government to take care of the gaps in the social fabric. It did not used to be that way. There was a day when we churches and families took care of their own and took care of people in the community. We complain about the size of government and how some government programs perpetuate dependence on the government.

 

Somewhere along the way, we forgot how to share our wealth with one another. We became a nation of fenced in subdivisions. Enclosed communities with fences and signs everywhere. We have become a nation of alarm systems to protect all the toys that we have amassed. We have become a nation where we are protecting our stuff rather than sharing what we have. We have become a nation that on average gives 2% of our income to our churches even though we have been commanded to give much more. No wonder the churches can no longer serve the poor. We have become a nation where charity has to have spotlights shined upon us as we give. We no longer are a nation of Christian charity.

 

That song by The Five Man Electrical Band was what popped into my head when I read this passage for today, Deuteronomy 23:24-25:

 

24 If you enter your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat all the grapes you want, but do not put any in your basket. 25 If you enter your neighbor’s grain field, you may pick kernels with your hands, but you must not put a sickle to their standing grain.

 

In this passage, this remarkable law indicates that ultimately the Lord owns Israel’s land. Thus, providing for the poor from our land is recognition that we are simply stewards of the bounty that the Lord provides us. It is also a warning to those who benefit from our charitable giving from our bounty not to abuse the privilege. When hungry, we may rely on the farmer to provide for our needs but we should get only what we need to alleviate our immediate hunger and should not steal the entire harvest of the farmer. We may get what we need for the moment but we are not to set ourselves up for the winter. We did not work for the grain that the farmer produced so we have no right to take more than only what is necessary to get us by – alleviating our immediate hunger.

 

Therefore, this passage is both charitable and responsible at the same time. We are commanded to be generous with the bounty that we have been given. God expects us to use our bounty, our wealth, to solve problems of hunger and poverty. We are called to share our wealth rather than hoard it. We are called to give succor to the poor and the widows and the downtrodden rather than hoard our wealth behind fences and alarms. We are called to live simply and be generous. We are called to take care of the hungry in our midst. We are called to do more than buy big screen TVs, buy Alexas so that we don’t have to lift a finger to do research, buy cars that can park themselves, boats, and jet skis, pools behind fences, five computers, and five cell phones. We are called to be a generous people not people who need fences and alarms to protect all the crap we buy and think we need.

 

At the same time, those of us who need assistance, should not think that we are entitled to millionaire lifestyles without doing the work necessary to gain that lifestyle. We need to end a generation of people thinking that McDonalds should provide you with $15 an hour. We need to raise a generation that sees McDonalds for what it is – a place to start. We must teach the value of hard work to the next generation. We must build government programs to be what they were intended to be – temporary stop-gap measures while people figured out how to get back on their feet. We must not think that people who have worked hard and earn good money as the enemy. We should aspire to be like those who have put in the hard work and effort to get where they are.

 

We are called to be a charitable people as Christ followers. We are called to be generous. We are called to help set others on their feet and not leave that job to the government. We are called to get out from behind our fences and alarms and be in the world and using our bounty and blessing to solve real problems in our world. We are called to give rather than gather. We are called to give rather than amass all the toys we can. We are called to give to others sacrificially just as Jesus gave to us through His sacrifice on the cross. We are called to be so generous that our churches can actually help any person that needs it in ou community rather than think its somebody else’s job. We are called to be generous by God. Ultimately, He is the Creator and it is from Him that our talents are given. It is from our talents that we earn our livings. Therefore, it all comes from him. Why then are we so intent on seeing it as ours and whomever has the most toys at the end wins? Be generous. Be uncommonly caring for those in need around you. But let us help in ways that will set people up for independence rather than dependence. And let us be people who, when in need, take only the charity necessary to get ourselves back on our feet.

 

Wise counsel from the Lord in two very short verses.

 

Amen and Amen.

Romans 15:23-33 — This passage today is about provision. The work of the church is about provision. Providing for missions, providing for other Christians in need, providing through prayer. As Christians, we are part of a team. We are not just self-contained units dotting the landscape. We are all joined together in Christ. Our fellow Christians are not out of sight, out of mind. Like the human body is interconnected and interdependent so to are all Christians in the body of Christ.

As Christians, we must provide for missions. We do so not out of obligation but we do so because the message must be sent. There are those who are sent and there are those who support those who are sent. My friend, Tim Lyda, felt the burden and the passion to plant a church in spiritually hard soil known as New England, specifically Manchester, CT. We did not force him to go there. He followed God’s leading him there. It is our job as the church from which he was sent to support him. This man, along with Jason Edwards have made sacrifices. They have moved their families 16 hours away from those who love them. They are strangers in a strange land who are making it there home, developing relationships day by day. They are faces struggles daily as they toil in the hard spiritual soil of New England. We must support them with our financial gifts. If you are a member of the LifeSong mother church here in Lyman, SC, we need to provide for Tim, Jason and their families. They are doing needed work. The gospel must be spread. People dying without knowing Christ as their Savior should, should, SHOULD burden our souls. We should care that New England is a spiritually dead place and that many souls there will be separated from God for eternity in hell for having rejected Christ. We must, must, must be there in the persons of Tim, Jason and their families. We must, must, must support them financially. We must make a way for them. The church at Rome was apparently ready and willing to support Paul’s journey to Spain. It is not just LifeSong Church as a whole that must support Manchester, we as individual LifeSongers must support them. They are doing tough work in a tough place and their need our financial resources to do the work that needs doing — spreading the gospel in ways that connect to the culture up there.

As Christians, we also have responsibility for our fellow Christ followers who are in need. In your life, would you allow a family member to be in need and not help them. If your brother, sister, or child were in desperate need would you not help them. We are part of the family of Christ so we too also have an obligation to help fellow Christ followers who are in need. Just as ancient Christ followers helped the Christians in Jerusalem when they were in need, we should be concerned about our fellow Christians here at home and abroad who are in need. We should be moved to tears by the persecution of Christians in Syria, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, Sudan, China, North Korea and other places that happen on a daily basis. We should be concerned too when Christians are in need right here at home as well. We have a responsibility to both, not one or the other. We must as Christians think of the welfare of others before our own. The thing that gets in the way of us supporting other Christians in real and direct ways is the American Dream. We have bought so into the fact that we are to have the newest cars, the finest houses, a cell phone for everyone in our house including our toddlers, the finest appliances, the newest, etc. The most expensive is better. We have so bought into that we cannot do what we are called to do. We are slaves to our finances and Satan just smiles. Christians awake. Shed yourself of debt. We are called to support fellow Christians. Is it not better to live on less. Does the new BMW become more important than supporting those that fight against the killing of Christians in Syria. The BMW seems pale by comparison. Is your manicured lawn worth more than helping those who spread the gospel in China? Is your boat worth more than supporting the soup kitchen right down the road from your house?

Finally, we, as Christians, must support each other with our prayers. Do you know how much Tim, Jason and their families value our prayers? Do you know how much missionaries in the Muslim world, or in North Korea, China and elsewhere value our prayers? They beg for our prayers. In committing to pray for those who are on the front lines of the battle to spread the gospel, we participate in their ministry. When we pray (and I mean more than just those prayers that we say at the dinner table….real prayer is what I mean), we are urged by the spirit to learn more about the people we pray for and their situations. When we pray for them, we are committed to find out what exactly they need prayer for. Through prayer we become involved. Through prayer, we can move mighty mountains. For example, the LifeSong Manchester team needs our prayers for a place for Sunday worship. The work of Satan has prevented them from using a city gym. When you pray, you want learn more of the needs of those on the front lines. Commit to pray for the Manchester to find a new place to worship on Sundays. Get to know about the missionaries in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Iran and elsewhere. Pray for them. The work they do in all the spiritually hard places is long and hard. They deserve our prayers. Not just supper table prayers, the real prayers that we usually reserve for when things have gone wrong. Pray with desperation for our front line missionaries!

Father, help us to set our priorities straight financially so that we can financially support our fellow Christians who are in need, our fellow Christians who are missionaries. Help to remember the difference between those things that are temporary trappings of this life and those things that have eternal weight. Help us to pray for those who are doing the work that needs doing and in so doing we become so moved that we become desperate to help our church grow more so than making our list of things we own grow. Help us to support the church in all ways in which our common body of Christ needs. Help us to set our priorities straight so that we can. Amen.