Quote of the Week: Richard Stearns on Helping Our Neighbors In Need

Christian Quote of the Week

One dollar a day versus more than a hundred dollars a day—that is the disparity between the average American and the bottom billion people on the planet…

The apostle Paul spoke to this same issue of disparity in 2 Corinthians, when he urged the wealthier Corinthian church to make a relief offering to the Christians in Jerusalem, who were in dire economic circumstances. “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed,” he wrote, “but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: ‘He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little'” (8:13-15).

The Bible is clear from the Old Testament through the New that God’s people always had a responsibility to see that everyone in their society was cared for at a basic-needs level. Ruth was able to glean wheat from Boaz’s field because God had instructed those who controlled the land to not harvest everything, so that there would be food left for the poor: “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien” (Lev. 23:22).

A modern-day version of this might read: “If your job produces a decent income for you, do not spend it all on yourself. Make some of it available to the poor and less fortunate, that they, too, might live a decent life.” For Christians, this is a justice issue or, stated more bluntly, a moral issue in which those of us who have plenty seem willing to allow others to have nothing.

I have developed a mental picture that helps me see my own sin of injustice more clearly. I imagine that I am on a deserted island with just nine other people trying to survive. Then I imagine that God gives me a huge gift-wrapped package filled with all the food I could possibly ever need. Finally, I ask myself whether God would expect me to hoard it all for myself or to share it. I also try to think how the other people on the island would view me if I kept it all for myself. That helps me sharpen the focus on what God expects of us with regard to the poor, since He has given so many of us more than we need.

Here I want to make a key point: It is not our fault that people are poor, but it is our responsibility to do something about it. God says that we are guilty if we allow people to remain deprived when we have the means to help them. It is our moral duty to help our neighbors in need. We cannot look at their situation and simply say, “Not my problem.” Neither can we sit smugly in our comfortable bubbles and claim no responsibility for the disadvantaged in our world. God did not leave us that option.

-Richard Stearns in The Hole In Our Gospel, p. 122-123.