As you practice sacrifice this Lent with InterVarsity and World Vision ACT:S, some of you may start to feel guilty for all the things around you and the opportunities you have and may become resentful of your stuff and of those who have plenty like you. Some of you may feel ashamed of your house and the money in your bank account, or you may get angry and share this post on all your "rich" friends' Facebook walls. Some of you may get scared that these "bad things" may happen to you next so you'll start hoarding even more. Others of you may make a donation to a nonprofit right after reading this because you "have to".
My prayer is that before guilt, shame, fear, obligation, or rage causes you to do anything, you would stop and realize that none of these feelings are from God.
Instead, read Romans 8:1 and see that there is no shame or condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Stand on that promise.
Then you can replace guilt and shame with the grace and love of God; because it is this Love that was the foundation for Jesus’ coming among us and it should be the core value for our comings and goings as well–especially for working with those in material poverty, spiritual poverty, and poverty of being.
We are the 1%
In When Helping Hurts, Brian Fikkert and economist Steve Corbett explain that by any financial scale we, in the United States, are the wealthiest people ever to walk the Earth. Even me. As a missionary with InterVarsity, I am part of the global 1% of people who make more than $34,000 per year. I think it is difficult for us to see ourselves as wealthy because we are constantly looking at those with bigger houses, flatter TVs, smarter phones, or nicer vacations. But take a look instead at a global financial snapshot: almost half of the world's people live on less than $2 per day.
What I pay for one subway ride in New York City is what a man in rural India lives off of. We walk to a faucet and run water when a woman in the Congo has to walk three miles twice a day. Pet owners in the U.S. spend $50.84 Billion with a "B" annually, which could pay for a multinational effort to end human trafficking seven times over, according to economist Siddharth Kara.
This disparity is a result of the Fall, the brokenness that exists because of our shattered relationship with God, and the distorted belief that grace cannot afford us all we have.
So what can we do?
We must own the reality that we have money. We must own the reality that we have time. And we must own the reality that all of our time and money belong to God.
One way that a groups of friends and I have decided to sacrifice our time and money is by Logging Off. LoGOFF stands for consuming Local, Green, Organic, Fair (fair trade), Free (slave-free). It’s our effort to fight sex- trafficking and labor slavery and ensure that whenever possible the money we spend goes towards alleviating physical and spiritual slavery rather than investing in it. And when it is not possible to do this (ex. no cell phones are fair trade), we will commit to praying that the systems and structures that are exploiting vulnerable people would be transformed into those that would empower them.
This week for Lent, what if you gave your time and money back to God? I can honestly say that there is no greater investment. He will do exceedingly and abundantly beyond what we can ask or imagine.