We teach churches and individuals to use what God has given them to serve others.
It’s super easy to read that sentence and move on. Honestly, I’ve read it–I’ve written it–about a hundred times. Can we just take a moment with it, though?
Reconciled World works with people so poor that they forage in the jungle for food several months a year. People whose children are dying from preventable causes. People who went to school until, maybe, third grade. We work with people with autism, who have always been treated like they have nothing to contribute. With people scraping by in the slums of New Delhi–AIDS patients, drug addicts, rag pickers…
We teach them to use what God has given them to serve others.
It’s earth-shattering, really. People who have always seen themselves as poor, always been on the receiving end of the equation…at first they think it’s not possible. “We have nothing,” they say. “Giving is for the wealthy.”
But when they step out in faith, they see that God really HAS given them some things. Really WANTS to give them more.
It starts small. They give their time to visit a sick person or an abandoned wife. To harvest a field. To pray for someone. Maybe a handful of rice for a widow. A bundle of sticks from the forest. We call these Acts of Love.
Within a year, churches typically progress to larger projects such as building houses, wells, bridges or roads. They do this with their own resources. Their communities begin to look different. Hopeful. And then flourishing in every way. The church grows. Neighbors across faiths work side-by-side. Families look at each other with love. The children are healthy and go to school and get scholarships to college.
Beyond Acts of Love, we mobilize local resources in a number of ways. We encourage trainers to volunteer. We challenge churches to provide their own meals at trainings. We teach program leaders to raise funds in their own country.
In one country, hundreds of churches were moved to give of their resources so that other churches could receive wholistic discipleship training. These churches contributed about $9,000. A massive sum. We are in awe.
All this is driven not so much by the desire to save money, but from the belief that a major part of our discipleship is learning to steward wisely all that God has given us. In many countries there has been little teaching on generosity and money. In part it now holds the church back from being all that it could be.
It holds me back.
I don’t even have the “little teaching” excuse. I live in America with unlimited access to knowledge and ideas. Yet I tend to give from what I can spare. From what we’ve outgrown or cast off. From the extra. The do-able.
Remember that one thing Jesus said about giving?
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”(Luke 6:38)
What would it look like to give my RESOURCES–those things that I actually need to survive and thrive? My family time. My grocery money. My car. My house. What if I let Jesus have ALL of it to do whatever He wants with?
According to Jesus, it would look like blessings I can’t even contain, splashing onto everyone around me. It would look like freedom and abundance and transformation. And it’s TRUE. That’s exactly what we’ve seen happen among the poor. Again. And again. Hundreds of stories. Hundreds of towns. God’s Word is always true.
So why don’t I just go for it? What’s holding me back?
It’s lack of faith, pure and simple. I’m scared. In my poverty mindset, I believe that if I give more, there will not be enough for me. For my children. I don’t know how to open my hand and let go of this lie. Even though it keeps me drugged into a lukewarm spiritual stupor.
Beloveds, there is GRACE enough. Even for me.
God knows our faith is weak and our lies feel like life-support. He doesn’t rush us, and He never gives up on us. Just like our brothers and sisters in Asia, we can start small. We can take just a small risk. And then, if it turns out okay, we could be brave to risk once more. And then one more time, a little easier, because it won’t be so scary.
And, if we are willing, we could receive all that God has for us.