Can I share with you a little of my struggle with wealth?
And no – I don’t have the problem of being a millionaire or anything like that. But there are issues in my mind relating to how wealthy I am compared to, well, most people outside of the Western world.
“Join the club,” you might say. We’ve heard statistics like these a million times:
|Total Percentage of World Population that lives on less than $2.50 a day||50%|
|Total number of people that live on less than $2.50 a day||3 Billion|
|Total Percentage of People that live on less than $10 a day||80%|
|Total percent of World Populations that live where income differentials are widening||80%|
|Total Percentage of World Income the richest 20% account for||75%|
|Total Number of children that die each day due to Poverty||22,000|
|Total Number of People in Developing Countries with Inadequate Access to Water||1.1 billion|
|Total Number of School Days lost to Water Related Illness||443 million school days|
*Taken from http://www.statisticbrain.com/world-poverty-statistics/ – March 2012.
It’s become almost fashionable to share the stats, as if by sharing them you may as well have fixed the poverty problem. So what’s our alternative to endless stat listing? Guilt tripping. ‘You’ve heard the figures, so what are you going to do about it? You’ve seen the hungry faces. Surely your heart goes out to them. Do something if you have heart!…’
Not that I think there’s anything wrong with moving pleas for help – in fact, they can be quite effective. But sometimes in our zeal to promote the poverty problem, we can miss the journey of the heart behind giving.
I’ll tell you what my problem is. I’m in this endless cycle of being moved to give, then realising that I can’t give to everyone or I’ll go broke (though of course not in the true third world sense)… and afterwards, the cause leaves my mind. Then I might give to another, smaller cause, feel better about myself for two seconds, then be convicted again that I’m really not doing enough, and that what I paid for my McDonalds lunch could have fed a low-caste Indian family for a week… and so on and so forth… Guilt, guilt and more guilt.
And I tell you what. Guilt achieves nothing more than perhaps short, knee-jerk reactions. Guilt won’t solve the poverty problem. Or any real problem for that matter.
Do you want to know what I think the solution for wealth guilt is? Discovering what you’re passionate about and sticking to it. Committing to it boldly.
Technically, we could solve the poverty problem overnight – we all know that. But really we can’t because there are too many people stuck in a cycle of tortured thoughts and no action, like I have been.
Well, the first thing I’m going to do is scream ‘Enough!!!’
OK… so I might not be quite that dramatic. But I’m certainly going to put a big ‘Stop’ sign in front of the endless internal povery-wealth analysis and say: You know what God? I’ve deliberated long enough. How do you want me to give? What am I passionately against? What cause am I passionate for? How much will I offer financially to this cause, and how much will I give spiritually? Or physically perhaps.
Here are some things that might really get us worked up:
Physical and mental disabilities
The global AIDS epidemic
Maltreatment of animals
And the list goes on… Just Google any of these and you’ll see a whole list of relevant charities.
But it can’t end with Googling. Or watching that teary DVD. Or sending yourself on an around-the-world guilt trip. I know from experience.
It has to start with realising the battle we actually do face. We face constant opposition to giving selflessly. Think about it. You’ll be watching an ad from World Vision one minute, then the next you’ll see a ‘You’re worth it’ ad for hair conditioner. Or the new Cadbury chocolate. Or the latest Justin Bieber album. Jokes, I don’t really struggle with this temptation…
Not that there’s anything wrong with pampering yourself, or Justin Bieber (lol)
There are so many things God has given us to take pleasure in. But if life is purely hedonistic, it’s zapped of its meaning I think – when God is subtracted anyway.
So for me, I need to realise the battle, stare it down, and claim that God will help me give to the cause that is right for my heart and my passion. Or the charity that I feel really connects best with what I’m concerned with.
Not that I’m wanting to imply this is right for you – because only you will know what your interest is – but I found this cool website recently (http://sevenly.org/) from a charity which sells newly designed T-shirts every week that both help promote and donate to a cause. I bought a T-shirt through Sevenly to help with the domestic violence issue, and people sometimes ask me about the shirt, which offers a chance to talk about the issue, and perhaps promote the charity. It’s a start anyway.
Usually change is made in baby steps. If you’re convicted about a particular issue you might like to map out the steps you’ll take to helping the cause. No-one needs to tell you, or guilt you, into giving. But if you feel inspired, or moved, or excited about a particular issue, ask God to expand it in your heart. And act on His promptings.
Giving in any form, in my opinion, is best done not out of duty, but by people who know they are deeply loved by the God of the universe. And who realise that every single thing we own is really His. We can’t hold on to any of it when we die.
May we each find our causes, or callings – and truly give from a heart of excited, passionate appreciation of how much we really do have.