Daniel and Amanda’s Weblog

January 18, 2008

Why we share our wealth, Part 3

Paul, there are a few people in the assembly here who dress really well, ride nice camels, and their homes have rooms and beds they don’t even use. They’re super nice and well versed in scriptural knowledge, but I wonder if they’ve read Christ’s teachings regarding riches. You see, there are hundreds in this city who are without shelter and food, and it seems like they, being rich, could share a lot more than their regular tithe. But I’m afraid, Paul. I don’t want to say anything, because I think they would be offended. And I am on salary here. What should I do?
-the epistle of Timothy

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
-the epistle of Paul to Timothy

Ok, so the first one was made up. But you see my point, I hope…a reminder that rich people existed in the first century as well. And they were exhorted to give and share generously to take hold of the “life that is truly life.”

Here, in one paragraph, is my understanding of how much the gospel of Christ calls Amanda and me to give…then I will post a few verses to support it. It’s not a number, by the way, or a percentage of income. Neither of those work out so well when you have such a huge gap between the poorest of the poor and, well, us. So here it is. Ready? Until all the poor of the world are fed, clothed, sheltered and tended to, Christ calls us to give everything away except that which we need to live. And face it, we don’t really need most of the things we have to live. Again, we aren’t anywhere close to perfecting this one, but that’s what we see in the gospel and where we want to head. Now, will that time come in our lifetime? Or ever? Well, probably not. But God doesn’t call us to be successful…he calls us to be faithful (Mother Teresa).

Remember the gap I talked about between the poor and the rich? Jesus told a story about a poor widow who put in two copper coins, where the rich were throwing in large amounts. Jesus said she’d given more than all the others. “All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” So it’s not the amount. If I’m able, by being a doctor, to give large amounts, that doesn’t make me any more generous or righteous than the person who can only manage a hundred dollars here and there. I think it was Dorothy Day who said “It’s not how much you give, but how much you have left, that matters.” What if all Christians followed that rule? We need more people to give until it hurts, until they can’t give anymore.

When John the Baptist was preparing the way for the Lord, the people asked him what they should do. Among other things, he offered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” With many other words, Luke writes, he preached the Good News to them. Could that be the first practical lesson on the Gospel?

Jesus echoed it in the sermon on the mount, after telling us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. “If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

Also, as recorded by John, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (I John 3)

Amanda and I are trying to take scripture for what it says and not excuse ourselves for any reason. How can we justify having two winter coats and knowing there are freezing women and men under the bridges? Fashion isn’t a good enough excuse. Not wanting our friends to see us wear the same coat all the time isn’t either.

One more scripture, and it’s been probably the most influential one for us. But you have to go look this one up…it’s too long to post. Matthew 25: 31-46.

Mother Teresa hit the nail on the head about this passage; “Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.” If we treat everyone in the entire world with the love we’d treat Jesus, or with the love that we’d treat our own brother or sister, son or daughter, we find ourselves giving till it hurts. We find ourselves unable to justify many expenses, living simply so that others may simply live (a motto of ours, but we don’t remember where we got it, sorry).

And again, without love, giving means nothing. It’s not about money or fund raising programs, it’s about loving God and loving our neighbor. If we give hundreds of thousands every year and live without one single luxury, but don’t have love, we gain nothing. Amanda and I want to constantly focus on this, striving to give purely out of love rather than legalistic requirements. We know we need to love more, and we desire to grow in that love every day. OK, I lied, one more verse.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (I John 4) Which reminds me of my all time favorite play ever, Les Miserables. Victor Hugo wrote something similarly profound in it, sung by Jean Val-Jean in his dying breath. “To love another person is to see the face of God.” Lord, be merciful to us when we fail to love you in the least of these, and let us look at every opportunity to share and give as a chance to see the face of God.

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6 Comments »

  1. I love your (umm, our?) blovels. :) Mainly, I just like the word “blovel”

    Comment by Amanda — January 18, 2008 @ 6:35 pm | Reply

  2. I really like what you have to say about giving, and living simply. I am also living this lifestyle, but on the opposite end of the spectrum. I am an intercessory missionary with the International House of Prayer in Alamance County, North Carolina. My occupation is being a missionary to the city that I live in, by crying out to God to move. I want to walk out the sermon on the mount lifestyle, and one of those is giving. Just as you are talking about. And you are right, it doesn’t matter how much you have. The only way I get money is if people are willing to fund the prayer movement by funding me. So I am living by faith, but just because I don’t have a lot of money doesn’t mean I don’t give just as you are talking about. The Lord is teaching me that if you live out of a place of giving, He will provide everything you need. And I love what you said about giving until it hurts. That is the type of giving Jesus was talking about. And this is a counter-culture lifestyle. But I just want to tell you that what you are doing is awesome. Jesus will bless you for it! You can check out my page and what I do at http://www.amandaslade.wordpress.com I pray for more people like you guys, and I praise the Lord for what He has spoken to you!

    Comment by aslade — January 18, 2008 @ 7:26 pm | Reply

  3. And I must say that I am learning to live this lifestyle. I definately don’t have it down yet, but the Lord is teaching me :) I don’t want to say I have it down, or that its in my own strength because it is not. It is a challenge and the Lord is the only one who gives me the strength to be able to do it! :)

    Comment by aslade — January 18, 2008 @ 7:28 pm | Reply

  4. Thanks for the comments, Amanda. I do wish this wasn’t such an odd and peculiar lifestyle. Shane Claiborne’s book, Irresistible Revolution, that I mentioned somewhere in this series, uses the term “ordinary radical.” When we compare some of the crazy stuff we do today to early Christians, it’s really not that radical. That’s how early Christians lived. Wouldn’t it be nice if people living simply and giving thousands away to their needy neighbors wasn’t considered radical by onlookers…but ordinary common behavior for the followers of Christ? For now, though, I’m ok with being thought of as a little crazy. :)

    Comment by Daniel and Amanda — January 20, 2008 @ 3:51 pm | Reply

  5. speaking of Irresistable Revolution…I believe Claiborne says, “live simply so that others may simply live”…although he was likely quoting someone else like Mama Theresa or Gandhi.

    Comment by Grant — August 4, 2008 @ 8:21 am | Reply

  6. Great article. It’s amazing to see people willing to understand the Bible the way it was written.

    Comment by drtimofey — January 23, 2009 @ 3:19 pm | Reply


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