I read somewhere recently that one in six kids in America live below the poverty line and that one in three kids of color in America live below the poverty line. Equally disturbing is that one billion people globally live on one dollar a day and three billion people globally live on two dollars a day. Some thirty-thousand kids around the world die every day from hunger and disease related to completely preventable causes such as the lack of clean drinking water. As one who believes in developing a personal relationship with God, what are my responsibilities to help those who are less fortunate than I am?
My family and I live pretty well. No, we aren’t wealth by any stretch of the imagination. We struggle with money problems just like most of America. Then again, most of America doesn’t live in a nice sized house on a hill with views of the city laid out like a blanket below us. Many people in America don’t own one car, let alone two. I seriously doubt that most people have a TV in almost every room of their home. Or high-speed internet access. Or whatever other toy or trinket you can think of. Yes, you could definately say that we live very well!
In light of the life that I live and in light of the glaring fact that so many people live lives so vastly different than my own, I have begun to ask what kind of legacy I want to leave my 9 year old step son? How do I want to live out my life in front of him now, so that when he is older and I’m long gone, He will look back and say, “he taught me to do unto others.” Do I want him to grow up thinking that life is solely about the pursuit of things? Or, do I want him to learn that life is about more that purely selfish pursuits. That the treasure we store up for ourselves is more than silver and gold, but that there is also treasure defined in giving and caring, especially for those who have little. Sure, owning that big BMW is a valid dream, but is it what I want Paris to see me spending all my energies to make happen? Having a cleaning person come, even once a month, is nice, but when I began to look at the big picture, how important is it?
In Matthew 25, Jesus talks about those people who are dispossessed. The single moms. The homeless. The hurting. Those with mental disabilities. Then he said that what we, as believers, do to the least of these, we have done to Him. If we ignore the least, then according to the scriptures, we are ignoring Him. Does that mean that we bring people into our homes and turn our lives upside down? I don’t think so! But I also don’t think that we are supposed to be so insular in our lives that we don’t take time to help out those who need it.
This year I instituted some new “chores” designed to take the focus off of the me-centric attitude so prevelant in today’s kids and place it on others. You see, Paris is a kid who, at 9, has his own room, his own stereo, his own TV, a dog, a keyboard, games, books, toys moutains of clothers and at least 20 pairs of shoes. Frankly, he’s got much more than any one kid needs! The problem is that he’s bored with it! Interesting if you think about it?! You see, I’m beginning to believe that things, no matter how cool, will leave us bored! And so, when the newness wears off, we rush after the next thing in an effort to placate our boredom.
I guess I’m talking about a faith that some might call a “do-gooder” faith. A faith that compels me to think about more than just my needs and wants but one that takes into consideration those who aren’t as fortunate as I am. Those who could use a friendly voice, a hug, a hot meal. I think that by getting off of the relentless pursuit of things and reaching out a helping hand to those around me, I will be living out the message of the scriptures which is to do good to those around you. To help those less fortunate. To put other’s needs before my own. Success is measured in many different ways, but most of the time it is measured in the things we have. Maybe success needs to be measured in not what we have, but by what we do for those who have need?
Living out my faith is requiring me to not be so focused on ME, ME, ME and what I want and more focused on those who have nothing. In the book of Proverbs we are told that wisdom is better than all the trappings of wealth. In Ecclesiastes we are told that those who love money are never satisfied with it. In I Titus we are told to tell those who are rich in this world’s riches to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money because there are things more important than money.
I don’t say any of this as a way of saying that wanting nice things is wrong or that the accumulation of wealth is wrong. Heck no! Lord knows, I’m all about the accumulation and the things! But what I am saying is that to use what I’ve been blessed with simply as a means to get more things for myself, that are really unnecessary, is to live a selfish, meaningless life. And when I come to the end of my time here on earth, what will I have to show for it? A beautiful car that I can’t take with me? A grand house that will eventually fall into disrepair? Or, perhaps, a legacy of giving to others so that their lives are enriched and made better? For my sake; for my child’s sake; I pray the latter!