Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Excess and Need

Why does need exist? I think education often impedes our minds processing simple thoughts. A six year old walks past a homeless man with his father, with tears in his eyes he asks, "Daddy, why is that man homeless?" The father goes on to try and help the six year old understand why this man is homeless but all his words fall short and now the father finds himself asking, "Why is this man homeless?" We can all give answers or justifications that will always lead to another why question. So what he screwed up, he doesn't have an education, was addicted to alcohol. Let's take this question beyond the city, "Why does that child not get medical treatment before the wealth superstar? Why does a child contract AIDS at childbirth in Africa that could be practically prevented by a pill that cost one US dollar a day? Why do people in Louisiana still struggle to recover and rebuild when there is a single man living in a 60,000 square foot home in Connecticut somewhere? I think the problem reason is simple. The word is excess. My theory is simple; excess in itself is an effect of sin. It is somehow justified now that some get more than they need while others cannot get what they need. Supply and demand as a business metaphor is a flawed argument to say the least.

There are examples everywhere. Sponsor a child in Africa for $27 per month and help send them to school for a year. Support Christian missionaries. Give to your local church in times of additional need. Give a homeless person a sandwich.

It’s like a huge scale that is tipped towards the side of the wealthy. Have you ever tried to balance a scale? It is difficult, typically one side or the other is heavier. This is what we see in political views of the economy as well. Democrats are for the poor, Republicans are for the wealthy. You are one or the other. That is a lie though. You don’t have to be for one or the other. Balance is a word key to the kingdom of God. Since we live in a broken world, we live in unbalance and the scales are always tipped towards the wealthy. I was watching a commercial last night and a guy says that if he isn’t life he doesn’t know who is. He says this within the context of being a super producer with lots of wealth, fame, a famous fiancĂ©, and a lucrative endorsement business as well. The lie many of these rich people have been told is that the money is there to go live life and the more money you have the less responsibility you have. That is why we see NBA stars get in fist fights & club riots, NFL players caught with cocaine, heiress socialites driving while hammered beyond belief. They believe this lie, the more we get on the wealth side of the scale the less responsibility we have. Well, Jesus sees things a bit differently. He is talking to His disciples about managing what God has blessed them with and sums it all up by saying, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked (Luke 12:48b, NIV).”

Apparently God gives some more than others. That is not because He has some secret connection to Hollywood or prestigious hotel owners though. God gives others more with a condition, He attaches a greater responsibility to what they are given. Why would God give a single man with a high school education a recording deal after he has been shot 9 times, then bless him with millions of dollars? Not because God is jamming around to “In Da Club.” God gives so we can give. The only reason that some have more than others is because God has placed them in a circumstance where they can help those in need. Now, we do have our own will and the ability to make our own decisions so we don’t always do this, I’d say we rarely do this in a large way. There is beauty in little things though; you can find this small characteristic of balance in the world if you look hard enough.

I have a friend who is trying to go on a family vacation this summer, they go each summer, but this summer has put them in some tight financial binds and they may not be able to go. I’m talking to him on the phone the other night and he tells me that this guy he knows (but not really close with) stops by and gives them a check to go towards their vacation. I was in my spot the other night (a local coffee shop) and it was near closing time. My friend who works there had to get rid of the sandwiches from that week and was going to throw them out, it was about twenty in all. I say hold on a minute, put those in a bag and I’ll take them to some people who will eat them. I walk in my closet the other day and realize that I have enough clothes to dress a small army somewhere, so I begin to get rid of things I hadn’t worn in 2 months or longer. 3 bags later, I lug them all out to my truck to take to the local mission. Fortunately, I am a scatter brain and never got around to taking them to the mission. I leave my spot and begin walking downtown in the wholesale district, it is downtown where all the clubs and bars are, so there are a ton of people, so smart people who panhandle go there with hopes to get some change. I am walking around with this huge bag of sandwiches and just walk up to homeless people and ask if they are hungry, if they say yes I tell them to look in the bag and take what they need (it’s amazing that those in need do not take too much or excess). I get rid of all the sandwiches and walk away feeling great that those sandwiches went to some people in need. I meet a guy on my way back who says he is homeless, hungry, and soaking wet (it had rained earlier). I told him I have half a sandwich in my truck that he can have. When we get to my truck I notice all the bags in the back, full of clothes. I offer him some dry clothes and he takes them. So I get to thinking and walk back to all the people I had spoken to earlier and given food and tell them where my truck is and if they need dry clothes to come there. I get rid of almost all the clothes within minutes. Now the excess of my closet and a local coffee shop has provided to meet the need of people who actually do need. Beautiful balance I’d say.

So what if no one ever threw away food not used or wanted, but gave it to the hungry, wouldn’t everyone eat? What if I resisted buying my 49th pair of shoes and instead sponsored a child in Africa, isn’t it better that a child gets educated than me walking around in some new kicks I’ll only wear a couple times? What if we stopped filling the vending machines at work with our spare change out of oral fixation instead of true hunger and gave to a worthy cause that helps meet needs, wouldn’t all get met.

I’m not saying we can obtain perfect balance hear in earth, but we can begin to see more balance than distorted economics. There will be no need in heaven, 99% of people believe this, which infers that will also be no excess in heaven. Balance is a beautiful thing, excess is an ugly beast we have come accustomed to and don’t notice as often as we should. May you hate excess and seek to meet needs, may your needs be met and give the rest away. May we seek to bring the kingdom of God to earth and be used by God to reconcile a broken world. May excess begin to vanish before our eyes and may we see many needs met today, tomorrow, this week. Will you join me in looking for these opportunities, Jesus calls us to manage what we are given well and those with much will be required much.

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