I was reading my weekly section of David Platt’s Radical and found myself in Chapter 6. A few paragraphs into the chapter I read:
Not long ago God began uncovering a blind spot in my life. An area of disobedience. A reality in God’s Word that I had pretended did not exist. More aptly put, I had lived as if it did not exist. But God brought me to a place of confession before him, before my family, and before the faith family I lead.
Today more than a billion people in the world live and die in desperate poverty. They attempt to survive on less than a dollar per day. Close to two billion others live on less than two dollars per day. That’s nearly half the world struggling today to find food, water, and shelter with the same amount of money I spend on french fries for lunch.
More than twenty-six thousand children today will breathe their last breath due to starvation or a preventable disease. To put it in perspective for me, that’s twenty-six thousand Joshuas and Calebs (my two sons). To put in in perspective for the church I pastor, if this were happening among the children in my community, then every child eighteen years or younger in our county would be dead within the next two days.
Suddenly I began to realize that if I have been commanded to make disciples of all nations, and if poverty is rampant in the world to which God has called me, then I cannot ignore these realities. Anyone wanting to proclaim the glory of Christ to the ends of the earth must consider not only how to declare the gospel verbally but also how to demonstrate the gospel visibly in a world where so many are urgently hungry. If I am going to address urgent spiritual need by sharing the gospel of Christ or building up the body of Christ around the world, then I cannot overlook dire physical need in the process.
Frighteningly, though, I have turned a blind eye to these realities. I have practically ignored these people, and I have been successful in my ignorance because they are not only poor but also powerless. Literally millions of them are dying in obscurity, and I have enjoyed my affluence while pretending they don’t exist.
But they do exist. Not only do they exist, but God takes very seriously how I respond to them. The book of Proverbs warns about curses that come upon those who ignore the poor. The prophets warn of God’s judgment and devastation for those who neglect the poor. Jesus pronounces woes upon the wealthy who trust in their riches, and James tells those who hoard their money and live in self-indulgence to “weep and wail because of the misery that is coming” upon them. In a humbling passage, Jesus says to those who turn away from him by ignoring the physical needs of his people, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Even as I type this, my stomach is churning. It is churning and I am upset because I know this to be true of my thoughts and actions. This is tough stuff and the rest of this chapter doesn’t get any lighter, but it is true. And that is the point I want to make.
When faced with a stark, yet true, reality such as this, what will you do? Are you cut to the heart? Do you fall on your face and ask for forgiveness for unintentional (or intentional) callousness? Are you moved but then soon forget? Do you brush it off? I feel so small and insignificant in light of the plight of the poor…but maybe that is as it should be, for then God can accomplish something through me that will glorify only him and him alone.
Father, I don’t know what to do with this…I believe it is true and I believe it is the will of your heart and your son’s heart that we not neglect the poor and needy. May this mission never fade from our thoughts…may we never become comfortable in our blessing that you have so richly provided. May we release our abundance to give to those for whom you intend to be blessed. Please give us concrete ideas on how we can individually and corporately address what you put into our hearts and state through your Holy Word, and then equip us with your awesome power to begin your work, stay the course, and accomplish your will in our lives and in the lives of others. You are faithful and trustworthy and I believe with all my heart that you will honor this request. Amen!