The previous paragraph is true today – not medically, but spiritually. Look at the spiritual ailments which afflict our society, such as violence, addiction, divorce, suicide, alienation, loneliness, and depression. Psychologists and self-help experts suggest lifestyle changes which can improve quality of life but do not cure. Pastors and spiritual counselors may cure on a case-by-case basis, but do not deal with the fundamental causes, which remain untouched. These ills are almost as prevalent within the Church as without.
What are the basic causes? To find out, let us examine more carefully our spiritual afflictions. There is a connecting thread, of emptiness and dissatisfaction. It appears that we are suffering from rampant spiritual malnutrition. Though materially blessed, spiritually we starve. Our abundance cannot satisfy the cravings of our hearts. But what is it that we lack?
One rich young ruler asked Jesus a similar question: "I have done good and obeyed the Law ever since I was a boy. What do I still lack?". Jesus answered, "If you wish to be complete, go sell all you have and give to the poor. Then you shall have treasure in heaven. And come, follow me" (Matthew 19:19-20). Are we prepared to take Jesus' answer to heart? Or will we make excuses and hold on to our possessions, as the rich young ruler did?
Another exact Biblical parallel may be found in the book of Haggai. Through Haggai, the LORD says to the Israelites: "Consider your ways. You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but never have enough; you drink, but are not filled with drink; you have clothes, but no one is warm; and he that earns wages puts it into a bag with holes. Thus says the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways." (Haggai 1:6-7) The LORD then informs the Israelites that their problems stem from their wrong priorities: for they prettify their own houses and neglect to build the house of the Lord.
Under the New Covenant, the house of the Lord is the Church, comprised of all those who believe in Jesus Christ. Building His house means bringing others into His fellowship. But aren't churches active in evangelism? The fact is, over 95% of the world's Christians live and work among less than 5% of the world's unreached. This is because we Christians' first priority is a comfortable life. Once our lives are comfortably arranged, only then do we even begin to think about reaching out to those in dire need. We seek first to live in safe, prosperous neighborhoods with appreciating property values. We insulate ourselves from the poor, and protest when they move in near to us – for after all, their children will bring down our schools' achievement ratings. We prefer jobs which are lucrative and interesting, and scarcely consider whether our work will benefit to the needy. When we invest, we look only for the greatest financial return, heedless of the impact on people's lives. As far as priority is concerned, it's personal comfort and safety first, personal prosperity first, personal career advancement first – and not at all God's Kingdom first.
The Bible informs us that Christians are fighting a war against Satan. If so, our fighting force is a joke. Only one percent of the army is on the front lines. The rest are so occupied with their own agendas that they barely supply those who are doing the fighting.
Woe unto you that are rich! For you have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! for you shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! For you shall mourn and weep. (Luke 6:24-25) The Lord has fulfilled this word in our generation.
What then shall we do?
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8, NIV)
What is justice? That the poorest children should have the same protection from crime, the same educational and economic opportunities that our own children have. What is mercy? That we no longer hide our eyes from the poor, but live and work among them on a daily basis. What is humility? That we should prostrate ourselves before God and cry out to Him for the strength and wisdom to do what He has called us to.
God has placed among us many shining examples. Who has loved justice? Martin Luther King and Mohandas Gandhi, among others. Who has loved mercy? Mother Theresa and Albert Schweitzer. Who has walked humbly? Leo Tolstoy and Dag Hammarskjold. We must no longer merely iconize these people, we must do as they did! Their lives should be the standard, not the exception.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we are starving because of choices we ourselves have made. Wean us from our lusts, turn our hearts towards serving the poor and serving You -- for whenever we touch the least of Your poor children, we are touching You. And we know that when we touch You, then we ourselves will be healed.
Copyright © 2001 CrossPollen
Last Revised: June 2, 2001
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