16 Oct '11
Hearts of compassion
Whenever I travel in the majority world I ask to be taken to the poorest section in town. Here in Ahmedabad, India I don't need to ask - just look out the window of my four star hotel in two directions and I see how half of the population of this city lives. It is a graphic reminder of the privilege we have of decent shelter, good food, clean water and bathrooms - none of which are present in these slums.
Virtually the only groups who bring hope to such populations are Christians who share out of the little they have with those who have less. One couple I met yesterday illustrates that commitment. He is a church planter among the poor. She is a PhD in the subject of the empowerment of poor tribal women in India and both have passed up what would be lucrative jobs with their education to work among the least of these: he planting churches and she running a school for tribal children who would otherwise have no education. When I asked them what brought them the greatest joy they smiled and said, "when someone responds to the gospel."
Travel in the majority (poor) world raises serious questions for those of us who live with great wealth in comparison. Consider the fact that 54% of our world lives on less than three USD per day and 91% lives on less than 10,000 USD per year. If one has a combined family income of $100,000 per year or more we are in the top one half of one percent of wealth in the world. A startling statistic for those of us who don't consider ourselves wealthy. Yet a glance out of my dirty hotel window tells me that I am very wealthy indeed.
The question this raises for me is the portion of my giving that ought to go toward the worlds poor. Not in creating welfare like dependencies but in supporting Christian ministries that seek to both share the gospel and help those caught in a cycle of poverty. The school run by my friends mentioned above gives children an opportunity through education to get out of the poverty that has been the plight of their families for generations. And, to find hope in Jesus Christ as they are given a truly Christian education. As their lives change, parents start to ask why and they too are introduced to the gospel.
Having travelled in fifty plus countries and seen the world for what it is and having been exposed to countless heroes of Jesus who work in difficult circumstances, my goal is to see at least 25% of my giving targeted for Biblical compassion - where the gospel is shared, dignity is restored, and people have an opportunity to be lifted out of their poverty. Yes, the poor will always be among us but like Jesus who gave great attention to the poor, our hearts should break at the circumstances that so many find themselves in.
We think nothing of spending millions of dollars on our church facilities with all the excellence and technology we can cram in. All wonderful. But do we have the same commitment to those who have literally nothing and where $50,000 is like a million in what it can do? This not about guilt for what God has given. Rather it is about having the heart of God with those who have almost nothing.
Have you thought about strategically targeting a percentage of your giving toward Biblical compassion? The difference it will make is huge and eternal.