A Camel, A Needle, and Religion in Europe

I think we’ve invested too much attention on water, orphanages and third-world missions.

Wait, too bold?

Ok, let me try again. I think we’ve invested too much attention on water, orphanages and third-world missions.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that those are bad things. I think they are absolutely essential. In fact, I have the highest, highest regard for those who have given their lives to live in places where living is difficult, and who take care of the “least of these” in obedience to Jesus.

So maybe I stated it too strongly before. Maybe we’ve given the right attention to medical missions, human trafficking campaigns, and evangelism in tribal cultures. But we’ve under-appreciated the needs in other developed parts of the world.

Why is it that in America, we talk about “taking the gospel to where it’s needed the most?” Isn’t it needed everywhere, and needed by all people, as the first three chapters of Romans would suggest? Furthermore, why is that statement usually code for “where people are poor?” Usually that statement means the urban ghettos in our country or the trash-heap slums of Mumbai, India. Somehow we have tied a string that connects stuff to “not needing the gospel as much” and lack-of-stuff to “needs the gospel.”

I’m not trying to villainize, here. This is a common mistake. We see the hardship people go through and we are moved to action by the struggle to live comfortably, or at all. Our hearts break for parents losing kids, kids losing parents, epidemics, starvation and oppression. I’ve never been on a mission trip to the developing world, so I’m on the outside looking in, but it seems like everyone I know that has comes back and says their own version of:

“I thought we would go and share Jesus with them, but they understand faith in such a tangible way that they shared Jesus with me.”

See, to some extent, the people who are in the deepest poverty understand the gospel at a much more tangible level, because their lives are not as comfortable and they don’t make the correlation between gospel and wealth. Simply put, they know what it means to really trust God from day to day because they have nothing else. Meanwhile, the developed nations—especially those in Europe that are officially Christian—have fewer and fewer Christians in them. They get very little missionary attention because we assume that churches on every corner and a relative level of wealth equals, “reached by the Gospel.”

The reality is that Jesus talked about this very issue, and he told his disciples, “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Wealth (personal or federal) does not salvation make. My fear is that we’ve decided that it does. Maybe those that “need the gospel most” and those “who have the most needs” are not the same group.

So consider this a plea. A plea to remember our brothers and sisters that are doing mission work in Europe. A plea to pray for those that are not simply building buildings and bridges, but relationships and trust. A plea to encourage your church’s missions committee to “diversify” who you are supporting. And a plea to pray for those who have given up a life of comfort in the states to reach the lost for the gospel overseas, no matter where they may be.

#PrayForEurope

Not What Our Forefathers Had In Mind [Video]

There is nothing wrong with being wealthy.

There is nothing wrong with making a really great living.

But it feels like there is something wrong with a system that has allowed this:

Here are just a few thoughts that struck me as I watched this video.

Christians should find this unsettling

I would HOPE that this would make even the most conservative, capitalist, free-market Christian uncomfortable. I’m not a socialist by any means, and I think competition in an open market brings out better products. But to anyone claiming allegiance to Jesus, the disparity illustrated here should be unsettling. Our primary citizenship should be as members of the Kingdom of God, not Americans. We do hold citizenship in both realms, but check out what Luke 14 says:

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who doesn’t carry his cross and follow my cannot be my disciple.

By comparison, Jesus’ disciples must put their love and allegiance in Him above all else. Jesus followers have a higher calling to view people with an extremely high regard. Seeing such a disparity should tug at our heartstrings, especially because the God we worship cares so much for the “least of these.”

The “next step up” never feels extravagant

Think about it. The level of the “top 1%” seems extravagant to those trying to “scrape by.” But they didn’t get there overnight. They just reached for the next income level, and then the next one. It only seem extravagant because it’s way out of your reach, but when you are knocking on the door of the next income level above you, does it seem extravagant?

To the person in a squalid hut in Africa, an apartment with running water is extravagant.

But to the person renting that apartment, owning a home (probably looking for more space) doesn’t seem extravagant at all.

It just seems like the next step.

No one thinks they are rich. The American Dream, that anyone in America can get as rich as possible any way possible is a sham. Greed drives this “next step up” mentality and causes us to be discontented with what we have. Studies have shown that we are living so far outside of our means that nearly everyone in America describes the perfect salary as about 40% more than what they currently make.

“If only I could afford _____________, then I would be able to relax.”

This is the dangling carrot that you’ll never catch.

To someone else, you are the one with “more”

There is always someone with more, but that means there is always someone with less. It is easy to sit on your high horse and say, “shame on all those rich people.” But here’s the real deal:

You are [almost certainly] not the lowest person on this chart.

There is someone with less than you. All of us can point to where the problem is and it never seems to be with us. Because we don’t think we have enough. We strive for that “comfortable” level, but it never comes. The way this cycle breaks is that we all need to work to break the strangle-hold possessions and money have on our hearts.

Give generously!

And when it starts to hurt, when we start to feel the pinch of giving, we need to give just a little more.

It’s time to debunk the lie that we are poor, and that we don’t have any flexibility in our income. It’s time to start looking out for those that have less than ourselves.

It’s time to let Christ make us generous people and let that be one of the things that sets us apart from the rest of the world.

What stood out in this video to you?