how much do i need?

Conviction. What a great feeling. I listened to Francis Chan’s sermon, “The End of the World” today, and it was so refreshing and convicting. He mainly talks about the passage where Paul says in the end times people in the church will be “lovers of themselves”, and how that pretty much sums up the church in America today. We love ourselves too much. I love myself too much. I think about myself too much. We think about ourselves too much.

I have no concept of persecution. I don’t have to worry about being killed, or coming home to a house thats been burned down by someone because I am a Christian. But Christians in India live this every day. I have no frame of mind to even comprehend hunger or thirst–it doesn’t even really register in my mind. I have never lacked any necessity in my entire life, but people are dying all over our world because they don’t have enough food or clean water to drink.

I have clean water running out of a pipe that comes directly into my house. I can push a button and the temperature in my house will go to exactly what I want it to. I can even turn a knob in my car to make it the desirable temperature.

Are you kidding me?

And here, we Christians in America build bigger and better climate controlled buildings so we can go to a service a few hours a week, sit comfortably in our padded chairs, all so we can properly “worship.” We buy bigger and better houses, nicer cars, and designer jeans.

We are sick. Even our generation of Christians who talk about being the church and not just doing church, championing social justice issues that have been ignored for too long. We still ache with the throngs of rampant consumerism and materialism in our culture because that is all we’ve known. I fear that we are able to pat ourselves on the backs for doing a little bit when we should in reality be doing much, much more. We forget that responsibility comes with knowledge. I fear that though we may look up to people like Shane Claiborne, we may also put an “extreme” label on him, so we won’t have to really change.

We are also masters of spin. We can justify most anything, all in the name of “providing.” You know, we have to provide for ourselves, for our family’s needs. Sure. But how much do we really need? How much house? How nice of a car? Do I really need that $50 jacket when I’ve got seventeen more in my closet? Do I need that $35 bottle of cologne to make me smell good? As much as I hate to admit it, when we choose to spend our resources on something extravagant out of love for self, it is the same as saying, “Sorry little girl in Haiti, but my luxury is more important than you eating.” Too often, despite our intentions, our lifestyles and decisions communicate the truth that we just don’t give a crap about other people, even if they are dying.

There is a part of me that screams out even while I write, “NO! Don’t say that! If you say that, you are going to have to really think about it, really live it. It’ll be easier and more comfortable to just keep living in the comfort of denial and self-justification.” Sure, it would be easier. But in my experience so far I’ve learned that living the difficult Gospel of Jesus is always best, and most fulfilling as well.

Francis Chan says that we need to start caring more about other people living than about our standard of living. I know it costs more to live in America. I even know it can be tough when you don’t make much money. But still, my wife and I don’t make very much money at all, and we are fine. We are not going hungry. There are sacrifices we can make. We can do more. Francis told a story today about a 16 year old girl who works two jobs so she can sponsor 14 kids. 14 kids! That means we can probably do more than one. And one day if we make more money, we can guard against falling to the love of self and money. I feel like we should live the exact same lifestyle whether we make $40,000 a year or $4 million a year, because our decisions should be based on need and not on self-indulgence. I think we all need to start asking ourselves this question every day: “How much do I really need?” There are sacrifices most of us can easily make to start preaching the Gospel and caring for people more with our money.

Let’s do it. Love mercy. Act justly. Despise self-indulgence. Live simply. Give freely. Stop talking big and start living our convictions. Start small if you have to. But start somewhere. Figure out one thing right now that you can say no to and give that money to Blood:Water Mission, or sponsor a Compassion International child.

Let’s do it together. Let’s repent of selfishness together, and show the world that Jesus cares and He loves and He meets needs–that He doesn’t look like a self-centered, spoiled American who would rather buy a hot tub to bathe in indulgence than give water to those who are literally thirsting to death.

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