I forget just how quickly time passes. Life, work, rest, activities, inactivity push us forward before we realize where we are. We are required to live each moment carefully or we essentially lose it before we even own it. This is just a reminder that this life we have is just a gasp of air, a drop of water in a huge swimming pool. God gives us life and time and people- but not forever.
Psalm 39:4-5 says “LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered— how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.”
I recently stumbled upon this article at work- Report: Americans Waste $165B in Food Annually (read it here: http://www.weather.com/news/drought/americans-waste-billions-in-food-annually-20120822). Since coming home from Uganda, graduating college, and living life essentially on my own- I have often struggled with figuring out how to live faithfully. This struggle is not just in a spiritual setting but in all realms of life (food, money, clothing, actions, free time, etc, etc). Maybe I can talk about that more later on, but it has definitely made me think about:
- the purchases I make (see Crown Ministry’s financial website www.crown.org/Tools, or read Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger),
- the corporations I support (check out http://betterworldshopper.com/),
- what is in my food and how it got to my plate (watch Food, Inc the documentary http://new.hulu.com/watch/67878),
- and so many more things (see the ratings on http://www.goodguide.com/#, see http://www.raisethebarhershey.org/smores/)
It really is an unending road to start walking down but for all the frustration and searching it has caused, I am glad for it. I am not sure we are supposed to have all the answers in this life, but the more I seek them out, the more I uncover the corners and pieces of the answers. I have yet to perfect the whole “knowing the right thing to do and actually doing it” but I think that is the continual struggle before us.
This article says Americans throw out about 40% of the nation’s food supply. We are in a time of record drought- it seems that I am constantly getting updates from humanitarian groups like World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse asking for any help with their relief efforts. They relay messages that food and water are scarce especially in places like the Horn of Africa and other parts of central Africa. I also follow the work of groups like charity: water and they have just started a new initiative to bring clean water to the country of Rwanda through drilling wells. They are a very transparent organization and if you donate to one of their projects (http://www.charitywater.org/september/) they will show you on Google maps exactly where and what they did with your money. (That is pretty cool if you ask me).
We know the world is in need. There are reminders like these nearly every day. However, poverty or lack is not simply a material reality. It is an all-encompassing thing that we see daily in the way people interact with each other socially, the state of a person’s soul, and even as it shows up in a government’s lack of leadership or in corruption- so many ways. (You can check out this PDF file with info from a great book, Walking with the Poor, scroll down to where it says “Types of Wealth” http://www.crcna.org/site_uploads/uploads/igps/modules/C-walking_with_poor.pdf this helps a lot when trying to understand this stuff.)
I even struggle with my response to all of this need- I just went to Nicaragua for a week-long trip with fellow believers. Do we simply give those in need stuff, money, time, our attention, our prayers, or what? The reality is that the solution is always all-encompassing in some way- it is going to take a lot of different things to really solve something and not hurt, or degrade or mistreat. Matthew 6 has a lot to say about all of this. First, it talks about how to give- not as a show, how to pray- not as a show, and how to fast- not as a show. Then it talks about where our real treasures ought to be found- not here on the Earth. Our relationship to money ought to be a loose and distant one, not one of devotion. And finally, we find out that God is fully capable of meeting our needs, and he does constantly for all of creation- proof enough he is more than able.
Choosing worry over God’s provision seems pretty foolish. With all of this in mind, I (and I believe so many others) find themselves in the role of trying to be God for those in need around them. We are blessed with so many things for a reason- as good stewards we ought to go out and use these things instead of keeping them for ourselves- and seek the yield they will bring. But at the same time, there is much that we simply cannot give a person- they will need to seek it out on their own or they may always be the victim of our misguided generosity.
As complicated as it can be then to react to need- I think it is still important and urgent that we most definitely act. Prayerfully, thoughtfully, with knowledge and care we should act. There is a ministry similar to charity: water called Living Water International that drills wells, repairs pumps, and shares the Gospel in various places all over the world. On their website, they say that to potentially solve the world water crisis it would take anywhere from 9 to 30 billion a year. (See: http://water.cc/water-crisis/related-news/)
Now remember the number-$165 billion. This is the total that Americans simply waste by buying food that ends up getting thrown out- produce- leftovers that don’t get eaten, etc. I am not saying the world’s issues would be solved by simply taking the money and redirecting it- but could it be that easy?
What if we lived life differently? What if we decided to humble ourselves and just ask God to meet our needs and give us our daily bread- and actually did it. If we just bought what we needed for the day or maybe the week and really tried to use up everything- leftovers, mix-matching entrees and sides that don’t really go together normally, and ate the produce before it spoiled- how much extra would we have at the end of the month financially? How much worry could we save ourselves? When we try to take God’s role for our own needs I think we just tend to overdo it.
There are so many groups in the world trying to solve the many crises we face. Some are doing a great job, some are struggling, and so many others are just adding to the chaos. But what if we did our research, re-examined our lives and lived faithfully while supporting one group (or more depending on where God leads you) over time.? What would this look like? What if we tried to spend less money, freeing up time where we normally work (to fund our spending) and spent time with those around us in our churches and in our neighborhoods that could benefit immensely from our love, attention, and friendship?
I write this primarily for myself (knowing that when I see some inconsistency or injustice in the world ultimately it lies in myself as well), but my audience is also in my mind. I know I benefit from this stumbling thought process and convergence of links and other random facts. I do believe a great deal of our response to the needs we see start with ourselves- taking the humble stance of a servant ready to do what our master needs done- not always what we ourselves want to do first or ever sometimes. I am reminded of Jesus who in John 13 washes his disciple’s feet. In love and care for others, we need to act, willing to do what perhaps no one else will do or consider. Living faithfully is perhaps best seen in small moments of service and sacrifice- I believe this is where it all begins. May God lead us all as we seek him.