Greater Love

“I could have got more.  I could have got more.
I threw away so much money.  You have no idea…”

  • 780 million people around the world lack basic water sanitation, which results in disease, death, wastewater for drinking and loss of immunity.
  • Americans consume twenty-six billion liters of bottled water a year and spend more annually on trash bags than nearly half the world spends on all goods combined.
  • Fifty-seven million children worldwide work every day instead of go to school
  • Four out of five Americans are high school graduates
  • The poorest one-fifth of the world owns 1 percent of the world’s cars
  • The richest one-fifth of the world owns 87 percent of the world’s cars
  • Roughly forty million people (the equivalent of about seven Jewish Holocausts) die annually from starvation, disease, and malnutrition
  • 69 percent of US adults and 18 percent of children and adolescents are overweight or obese
  • Of the six billion people on planet Earth, about 1.2 billion live on twenty-three cents a day
  • Half of the world lives on less than two dollars and fifty cents a day.
  • The wealthiest one billion people average seventy dollars a day.
  • If you make thirty-five thousand dollars annually, you are in the top 4 percent.
  • If you make fifty thousand dollars annually, the top 1 percent.
  • Roughly 1 billion people in the world do not have suitable housing, and 100 million are entirely homeless.
  • Someone dies of hunger every 3.6 seconds.*

[Jesus] will say to those on his left: ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.”

I’ve been a Christian for nearly 15 years and somehow I missed one of Jesus’s most important messages.  I’ve lived a life of affluence, without thought.  Central heat and air, running water, disposable diapers.  Three meals a day, refrigeration and fifteen different appliances/gadgets/do-dads with which to prepare food.  We pay for and eat meals without ever leaving our cars, we wear a different outfit every day of the week, we poop in drinking water.

Distance.

That’s the thing that makes me capable of such waste and consumerism.  I’m not standing in a room full of people who will die over the next few months because they don’t have enough to eat.  I’m not bearing witness to the mother who will give her child up for adoption next week because she can’t feed him.  I don’t see the young boy working all day, every day in the factory so that I can have the latest gadget.  I don’t see the girl sold into slavery to feed her family.  I don’t see the man with frostbitten fingers because he has no place to live.

So I don’t think about them, and I don’t do anything for them.

There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony.

I’ve always thought of the rich man as selfish and greedy.  He had so much excess, and yet he refused to give to the poor.  But what if Dives didn’t have any excess at all?  What if he was just like me… using all of his wealth to maintain a lifestyle he’d grown accustomed to, with none left over for charity?  By the world’s standards, I’m wealthy – filthy rich, in fact.  Jon and I are in the top ONE percentile, enjoying luxuries much of the world can’t even imagine.  Would you like to know how much money we budget (above our tithe) to give to the poor, the starving and the destitute each month?

Nothing at all. 

Sure, we help people here and there when we know of a need, but we don’t budget for it, we don’t plan for it and we don’t make giving to the poor part of our monthly expenditures.  And yet, we plan and budget for so many unneeded “extras” that contribute to our own comforts and desires.

How many lives could my (not so) “necessary” purchases save?  How many human beings would still be alive on this planet, had I given up some of my luxuries, long ago?  When just a few dollars a month could literally put food in the mouths of starving people, how many lives have been lost to my negligence?  How many people have died so that I could have cute clothes, fast food, nick-knacks and entertainment?  Jesus gave us a commission and a responsibility and I am ignoring it.  I’ve missed one of the most important, central themes of the bible – LOVE.  Is there a greater or simpler manifestation of love than to give FOOD to the one who is hungry?   Yet I don’t.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

What if we just lay down the disposable diapers, the bottled water and the remote control?

How many lives could we save?

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*Statistics are from Jen Hatmaker’s book, Interrupted

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