Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Matthew 19:23-24
I’ve heard this passage of Scripture many times, but honestly never thought Jesus could be talking about me. I’m not rich. I don’t live in a mansion, jet set around the world, own multiple houses. Based on the American definition, I’m not rich.
The sad part is, I’m ridiculously wealthy. Did you know:
80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day
24,000 children die each day due to poverty (and that doesn’t include adults!)
1.1 billion people have inadequate access to water and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation
1.6 billion people (one quarter of humanity) live without electricity
Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century without being able to read a book or write their name
And these are only a few statistics. Man, I am wealthy.
In Brazil, we saw poverty, people living without much of anything. And the crazy part is, some of these poor Brazilians we met would be considered rich compared to others around the world since they at least have a roof, although leaky, and water, although not always good water, etc. But nonetheless, they are poor and in need, much more so than me.
If you haven’t guessed yet, one of the lessons I spoke about discussing further is poverty. One morning while we were traveling, I sat looking at the tiny huts we passed, most of which were awfully dilapidated. Tears came as I questioned why I was born in America, in a middle class family. Why were these people born here, to live in huts and rely on the weather for their crop to succeed. It was a weighty realization that I am the rich man Jesus spoke about.
In one village we visited, the guys had an opportunity to share with some of the men in the village. They were all farmers and said they couldn’t not believe in God, as they had to rely on his provision for their crop. They didn’t know much more about him, other than he is Creator and Provider, so our guys were able to share. They shared the highlights of the whole Bible in about an hour. The men asked them how they’re supposed to know these things? It wrenches my heart that they do not currently have access to discipleship to learn about God’s truth. Thankfully Pastor is working to plant churches; praying for his ministry.
I couldn’t help but think later, though, how I’m almost jealous of these people. It is easy in America to make it through the day thinking I can do it on my own. Yes, by God’s grace he breaks me of that and does show us through hurts, pains, etc, that we are not capable of doing it alone. But I was still struck by some of these Brazilians’ simple trust in him as Creator and Provider, and encouraged by their reliance on him. Most definitely a lesson for me as I am wrecked apart from him, and no less dependent than they are.
In America, I feel like there are too many distractions. Too much materialism and idols screaming for our attentions, saying they can satisfy. Lies! They may provide a bout of enjoyment, but will ultimately leave empty, broken hearts. In Proverbs 30 it says: Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the LORD ?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. How true. I am distracted by my things. Distracted from the true satisfier of my soul.
I also thought about the weight of my responsibility while watching those huts pass. Too often we think “how can God allow this poverty? This starvation?” and completely forget that he has blessed many with more than enough. He has blessed me with more than enough so that I may give of what I have to those in need. And how much cooler is that? It is a GREAT blessing to give of yourself to someone else; be it tangible things or your heart. It’s such a bizarre concept as I hold tightly to what I have. I’m afraid to let go, but it is NEVER joyless to give for the sake of sharing God’s love and truth with others. Never. Last week I was blessed to see the members of our team seeping with joy as we poured out every single bit of ourselves for others. As we endured crazy heat, weird food, sickness, uncomfortableness, language barriers, and everything else Satan tried to throw at us. And instead of complaining or breaking down, we pressed into God’s love and shared him and ourselves. What joy.
There’s so much more that I’m thinking as I press into this further, striving to evaluate my life and everything I have for Kingdom purposes. But I don’t know exactly how to put it into words, or if I did, it’d probably take up volumes, so I’ll stop here. I just know I can’t go back, I can’t be the rich man who is afraid to give it all away and lose Jesus. To see the starving and the hurting and keep walking as though I saw nothing. To be thankful I’m “not them” and complain that “I don’t have enough.”
On my way home from the airport last Saturday, a song by Brooke Fraser shuffled its way into my iPod that she wrote following a trip to Rwanda and immediately after it started playing, I started crying (yes, I’m a cry-baby:)). I'll end with it:
Now that I have seen, I am responsible, faith without deeds is dead…I will tell the world, I will tell them where I’ve been…