I can't stand hypocrites...and by the way...I am one.
As a matter of fact, I think we are all hypocrites to some degree. We all say things with our mouths that we don't follow up on with our lives. This truth has been brought home to me this week as I've been considering my response to the drought and famine in the Horn of Africa. Yes, my wife and I did make a donation to help with famine relief (which I was sure to send it in before the September 16 deadline for the Canadian government to match my donation.) But then I turn on the TV and see the thousands upon thousands of people who have been displaced from their homes, who have watched their children die, who have been shot at and raped by Somali militants, and I wonder...is it enough?
As I write this, I'm sitting in a comfortable home, with my breakfast to one side of the computer and a coffee to the other. I'm full, I'm warm, and I'm safely tucked away in my suburban neighbourhood where the biggest threat of late has been a pair of skunks skulking silently around the shrubs at night. There are literally thousands of dollars of technology all around me, my bookshelves are filled to overflowing, and I have so many clothes I have to switch them in and out of my cupboard for winter and summer. How do I reconcile my lifestyle in light of the hundreds of scriptures that tell me I need to care for the poor and oppressed as a demonstration of my faith?
Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. (Luke 12:33)
Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow. (Matthew 5:42)
Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. (Isaiah 58:10)
If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister[a] in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? (1 John 3:17)
All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need. (Acts 4:32-35)
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice. (Proverbs 31:8-9)
What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. (James 2:14-17)
Those are just a few examples. Some would say there are over 3000 verses in the Bible that talk about the poor, our responsibility to care for them, and how believers are to use their money and possessions. There are those who would try to contextualize these verses (and some of them do have very specific applications), but generally speaking, those are the same people who would extrapolate an entire doctrinal position based on a verse or two. As I read the scriptures, there's no denying it: God wants us to act. That being said, to what degree do I act?
I'm thinking of going out to buy a new pair of shoes tonight, even though I have lots of shoes already. I just don't have these shoes. I want them. Does my want overrule the need of the millions of children who don't own even one pair of shoes? If the answer is yes, then I am a hypocrite based upon the words of scripture. Truthfully though, I'll probably end up buying the shoes. What compounds the problem is that, in my role at World Vision, I engage people every day, encouraging them to donate, to run a fundraising campaign, to advocate in some way on behalf of the poor. The old adage "do as I say not as I do" seems to come into play here and yet, based on the struggle I'm experiencing, I think slowly but surely I am taking baby steps to becoming less hypocritical. I see God stretching me in all kinds of new ways to make my life less about me and more about Him with the natural extension being that it is more about those in need.
God help me stay on that path and not turn back to spending all of my money on me. My cupboard can't take any more crowding and neither can my soul.