Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Advent Conspiracy (Spend Less) part 2

Apathy and inaction were never the responses God intended for His people in relation to poverty issues. In Micah 6:8, He calls people to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with HimAct justly, or do justice, means that we're called to do something about injustice in the world. Love mercy means having a heart of compassion for others, seeing poverty as people in need, not a theoretical problem. All of this stems from a relationship with the God of love and justice. As we walk humbly with Him, He guides us how to be good stewards of our resources and help people in need.

Speaking on Sunday to the junior high students, and borrowing from a sermon I heard from Gary HaugenI shared the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 in Mark 6 as a framework for how we are to respond. A huge crowd of people has followed Jesus and the disciples after a long day of teaching and healing. When Jesus sees the crowd vying for His attention, His immediate reaction is one of compassion (love mercy). He could have easily been annoyed or frustrated--the disciples seem to be, asking Jesus to send the people away--but He sees them as sheep without a shepherd. 

The disciples tell Jesus to send the people away to get food. His response is profound: you give them something to eat! I know that my own response to poverty issues is to pray that God would somehow do something to bring justice to the world, to fix the problems of poverty. But I'm beginning to see that I am the answer to my own prayers. God doesn't generally work in abstract or theoretical ways; He works through broken people called the Church. So when Jesus tells the disciples to feed the people, He's asking them to do something impossible; He's asking them to be faithful.

What do the disciples do? They freak out and say that it would cost too much, that there's no way it can be done (sounds like someone who is overwhelmed). Jesus asks them what they do have to give. You know the rest: Jesus turns 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish into enough food for 5000+ people. I'm convinced that Jesus is just as willing to take what little we can faithfully give and multiply it exponentially in miraculous ways for His kingdom. I don't mean that if we give $5 then Jesus will magically turn it into $5000 in an instant. But if we choose to give of our time and resources to helping those in need, I believe that Jesus will use us in remarkable ways in revealing His kingdom to the world. It requires action on our part (act justly). When we combine action with compassion, we get love. If we are willing to give even just a little to a huge problem, Jesus is more than capable of taking care of the rest.

So what does all this have to do with spending less? This Christmas season, I asked the junior high students to give up one gift they might receive this year, asking their parents to save the money and redistribute it in creative ways. 

Let's say you want a $150 iPod Nano. What if you took $70 from that and devoted it to a family dinner-and-bowling night? Instead of tuning your family out via headphones, now you're spending time with your family and having fun together. Now that leaves $80 left over, which you could give to FH Global to help provide clean water to people in Uganda. Charity: water estimates that $20 can provide 20 years of clean drinking water for one person. Your $150 could buy an iPod. Or it could help you love your family better and give four people living in poverty 20 years of clean water.

Or how about shoes? You could drop over $100 on the trendiest shoes in the mall. Or you could spend $45 on a pair of TOMS shoes who will give one pair of shoes to a child in poverty for every purchase. Then you could spend $0 going on a hike with a friend to break in your new TOMS shoes. And for good measure, you could give $5 and donate 2 pairs of shoes to Soles4Souls here. Now there are three previously shoeless people who have protection on their feet, you have some new kicks that are way more trendy than anything you'll find in the mall, and you spent an afternoon hiking with a friend. All for half the price.

By spending less this Christmas season, we can give more. We can see Jesus take our five loaves and miraculously change a person's life. The junior high students are coming up with some great ideas already. I'm excited to see what they come up with this week as we brainstorm relational gifts that allow us to give more.


  1. Thanks Joel for the series you are teaching right now. We had a great conversation with Craig last night; he is very willing to do something different this year!

  2. I love where you are going Joel. A man after my own heart. Maybe thats why were brothers!