Today, our focus has been on doing our part to help eliminate poverty around the globe. We have heard some powerful stories. We have learned about some unique opportunities. We have been challenged to think about how our every day activities impact poverty around the world.
In all of my years of ministry, there has been one constant thing I have seen at any conference I have attended. That constant thing is some teary-eyed person coming forward…sharing a story about an encounter with a local homeless person…inviting people to take up an offering.
So, immediately following a moment like this (which I do believe was a sincere cry for help), one will view countless conference attendee’s going all over town trying to do something nice for the city’s homeless. And, I think that’s great…BUT…
But, what happens when we leave. Have we taken any steps to help eliminate this city’s poverty? Have we made attempts to alleviate hunger for one meal or for hundreds of thousands of meals?
And, is this just a one-time experience for the conference attendee’s? Do we simply chalk this up as doing our part to care for the homeless and hungry? Or will we return home and find ways to eliminate poverty on a daily basis? Will we regularly be involved in caring for the homeless, the hungry, the sick, the orphaned, the widowed, the over-looked, the oppressed?
That’s one of the things that used to drive me nuts about Youth Specialties conventions. We’d gather in large towns (Philly, Cincy, NashVegas, etc) and all these Bible college students (nothing against Bible college students) would run out on the street and make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the homeless. Again, I think that’s great. But, then, later you’d see those kids eating at all the cool and trendy restaurants (not that I have any thing against cool and trendy restaurants). And I would always wonder why they didn’t eat with the homeless? Why didn’t they invite the homeless person to come to the trendy restaurant with them? And, after the conference was over, the Bible college students would return home to their comfortable and safe environments. I’m sure some were impacted by the experience. But, how many walked away with nothing more than a story to share one day when they preach about giving to the poor?
My struggle with this isn’t in the good that is being done. It lies more in the motivation. Are we simply doing these good deeds because we know it’s the right thing to do? Or are we doing them because we know we are surrounded by a lot of important figures in our denomination?
Chris Seay once said that we can do some great things, but if we’re in it for the wrong reasons…it’s a sin. It’s a powerful statement. Our motivation is crucial. Do we attempt to relieve hunger and eliminate poverty because our hearts compel us or because it’s some kind of religious law?
My heart has been moved today. I’m not truly thinking about what I can do in Jacksonville. I’m thinking about what I can do when I return to Muncie. Our “mission house” at Center Chapel is going to be crucial in our area. But, our attempts to eliminate poverty cannot end with our food and clothing bank. Muncie will soon have another 800 families effected by job loss when Borg Warner closes its doors in the very near future (April, I beilieve). How will the church respond and reach out to these families? What can I do on a personal basis to help eliminate poverty in Muncie, Indiana and the word beyond?
So, back to this conference…As soon as a young woman stood in front of 1200+ people and talked about what she did last night, I was reminded of Jesus’ words from Matthew 6. He says,
“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. 2 When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. 3 But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. 4 Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”(NLT)
What can you do to help eliminate poverty today?