Living the Gospel Requires More Than Good Intentions and Random Acts of Kindness
I read a quote from John Perkins several week ago and I just can’t get it out of my head.
“Living the gospel means desiring for your neighbor and your neighbor’s family that which you desire for yourself and your family.”
Lets be real. I don’t meet that standard very often – but I am struggling to work out what it looks life in my life. Working for World Orphans in developing countries and my experience as a teacher and coach in South Carolina public schools has brought me face to face with children who are suffering the effects of generational poverty and institutional injustice.
You would have to be pretty cold and calloused to work in these environments and not feel compassion for these children. But after the compassion and sadness comes then what do you do? Do you walk away sad? Do you blame it on the lack of character of “those people”?
Do you go home thankful that your family doesn’t have to deal with these issues? Do you try to isolate your family from the problems in your community?
Or do you react with action and try to do the same things you would do if it was your children and your family trapped by the insidious tentacles of generational poverty or being dragged down by the lingering impact of institutional injustice?
What Would You Do?
If my child isn’t receiving a quality education I’m going to do something about it, but I know other children aren’t receiving the education they need. So what am I doing about that?
If my child needs medical care or medicine they are going to get it no matter what I have to do or where I have to go, but I know other children aren’t receiving the medical care they need. What am I doing about that?
If my child needs food and proper nutrition they are going to get it, but I know other children are hungry and lacking for proper nutrition. What am I doing about it?
I want my child to have every experience that they need to be prepared to be a successful adult, but I know other children aren’t getting those experiences. What am I doing about it?
I know that evil and injustice are real and many people are suffering from the impact of evil and injustice – what am I doing about it?
Beyond Charitable Acts
Again let’s be real. You think I am off base here. I’m sure that you can rattle of a list of charitable acts you have done. But how often do we really embrace the suffering of other as our own? How often do we desire for others what we feel entitled to ourselves? I’m not pointing the finger at you — I’m looking in the mirror.
Here is another John Perkins quote from the article Models of Effective Compassion.
“Acts of charity can be dangerous because givers can feel good about actions that actually accomplish very little, or even create dependency. Overcoming a [false] attitude of charity is a difficult task because it requires givers to demand more of themselves than good will. God’s people have solutions that are qualitatively different from any other approach to the poor.”
Living the Gospel and desiring for others what we desire for ourselves requires more than good intentions and random acts of charity. It requires a mindset shift.
Do we really want to help others or do we just want to feel good? To truly help others we have to adopt an openhanded mindset and embrace the reality that we are not our own, we were bought with a price. If we are not our own, nothing we have is our own either.
Our money, our gifts, our time, our influence, our family — they are not ours to do with as we please. They are not ours to give 10% to God and keep the other 90% for ourselves. Everything we have is gifted to us from God to be used to bring about his kingdom, not to trade for a life of safety and security.
Biblical Foundations for these thoughts:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Mark 8:34-35 34
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.
I Corinthian 6:19-20
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
I Timothy 6:17-19
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.