We continue our Radical Saturday sermon series from David Platt with part six, The Gospel Demands Radical Abandonment (A).
Fantastic message! Anyone who thinks Platt is preaching works-righteousness needs to listen to this sermon….it’s right on. I *do* see what Manfred is saying though, and look forward to reading the book he reviewed, as well. It is how we define “poor”….in Jesus’ day, the poor were the sickly, diseased, aged, unable to care for themselves….Obviously, “poor” in our country is those without cell phones or a family with only one vehicle. :( I am all for giving to those with nothing….and giving them a hand-up…rather than just a hand-out. Otherwise, they will find themselves only living on the money of others rather than working at providing for their own family (and self).
“in Jesus’ day, the poor were the sickly, diseased, aged, unable to care for themselves….Obviously, ‘poor’ in our country is those without cell phones or a family with only one vehicle.”
Spot on! I’ve been saying this for years now and all I get is a glossed look from people. By the standards of the middle east 2,000 years ago (and by most countries around the world today), even the homeless in our cities are rich. This is why I can’t bring myself to give money to organizations claiming to work toward eradicating “poverty” in the West. What poverty? That not everyone owns an iPad?
And these benevolent organizations combating this perceived “poverty” in America are competing with our coddle-you-from-the-cradle-to-the-grave government and its myriad programs to help the “poor” that at one time was not the government’s job, but the job of the church and individual Christians. Big government has taken away our opportunities to help our neighbors in this capacity. This is why I look toward my brothers and sisters around the world who are in true abject poverty.
As Christians we sit in million dollar churches, in hundred dollar Sunday suits, drive home in multi-thousand dollar cars to our even greater multi-thousand dollar homes, but when we hear Jesus talk about it being impossible for a rich man to get into heaven, and when we hear the story of the rich man, Abraham, and Lazarus, we think those warnings about the “rich” are for people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates; those other people.
My how deluded we are. And the depth of our deception becomes even more apparent when we share our convictions about these matters (and our desires to do something about it). Not only is that kind of thinking considered “radical,” but we are met with panicked opposition from Christians telling us that doing so means we’re practicing a works-righteousness gospel.
As I lay down in bed each night, I thank God for the mattress and pillow I have to sleep on. My husband, a few years ago, went to Romania on a mission trip to help build a church over there…he said that many people had dirt floors and one family, who had pigs, had to have them right near the house and the smell was inescapable. I think of these people often and try to never take for granted what I have.
I love to *give* but I want the money to go 100% to helping others…Programs that take money to help in other countries say that only 80% of the money actually goes to people. That always bothers me. That is why my husband and I are discussing how we can support the pastors in Liberia…knowing that money goes directly *to* them and goes to support those who are spreading the gospel gives me joy.
A question I have, though, is when giving money through any charity who helps the poor in other countries, do they work at getting people on their feet to provide for themselves?
I would like to answer this one for you having been on the ground I know what these pastors are doing in Liberia. Let me give you an idea. The average person in Liberia makes less than $2 per day. That equates to approximately $50 or less per month. Every pastor that we met in Liberia cares for orphans from the war, of which there were approximately 400,000. The one pastor, David Quinah, who will be working with me had 5 of his own children and then adopted or fostered another 13. His youngest child is about 4 years old, but this dear pastor and his wife are both in their early 60′s. From their meager resources, these pastors take care of at least one church, raise their families, and provide an education for their own children as well as for the orphans they care for.
On the ground (as they say in Liberia), the work involved includes planting of market crops such as plantains, bananas, rice, pineapples, or rubber. These crops are made available to the villagers as well, and then the crops are taken to market. Once they are sold, the money is invested back into the community and to purchase more seed for the ground. Our goal with the commercial planting aspect is for each pastor and each church plant to be involved in the work of doing this so they will eventually be self-sustaining without the need of any western funds. The main reason is that one day, Liberia may not be open to westerners any longer. If that happens, or if war or civil unrest should come to the country, then we do not want them dependent on outside help.
We have also used every gift (unless specifically designated) to help with the provisions of books for libraries for the pastors and the churches. It has also been used to fund (over the last years) gifts for providing things like mini-generators. We just sent over 10 mini-generators (again gifts from churches) that the church-planters can use in their village. They provide a means of charging up batteries for cell phones and charge a small amount to do this. This allows them another contact in the local community with a wide variety of people. It also provides a partial income to the church as well as for the pastor.
As for other charity groups, I know The Pilgrim has looked at a number of them here and abroad as I have. Sadly, while there may be some out there, I am not aware of even a Christian organization that I have contacted that does not deduct a percentage of each gift for “admin costs.” I have stated before that our funds have to be sent via International Moneygram or Western Union in Liberia. This obviously has fees involved. However, no fees are deducted from any gifts. Money has graciously been provided by a couple of sources for things like that, so every single gift goes to Liberia in full.
If you have any further questions, feel free to ask. Thank you again for your words of encouragement and also your consideration of support for the Liberian pastors.
Thank you, TJM, for that. I will have my husband read your words and hope to be able to support a pastor! I am so thankful for your (and others) work over there! One question I do have is: is it required to sign up to give monthly or are one-time as-we-can donations allowed as well?
My husband and I are faithful in our giving to our church….but I can’t figure out if this is scriptural (Is it required to give it to our church or The Church as a whole?). I would rather give the whole tithe to the Liberian pastors…..rather than tithing to our church where the pastor makes almost double what my husband makes (and has no children at home) plus gets allowances for house, auto, health *and* vacation times….Our church does give to missions and now our old youth pastor (who is younger than me) is becoming the associate pastor and they are looking for a brand new youth pastor (although, I believe we could use the money we would be paying him in other ways and instead of a youth pastor, equip *fathers* to raise their children up properly).
So I guess my question is: should our tithing go to the church or the Church? :)
Now THAT is a huge question! How much space do I have to write an answer?? Maybe I will write a post about giving itself here in the near future which might help to clarify some of my thoughts here.
Ok, seriously, there are a few things I believe it is important to make clear, and my apologies for not doing so earlier in any of my comments about Liberia.
First, my intention is not for anybody to place the needs of Liberia as being above any other need. There are many countries around the world, and particularly in Africa, that are extremely poor. My goal has been to simply place the need of Liberia in front of others as a means to hopefully generate some additional funds for a group of works that I have seen first-hand, so I know what is actually going on in the country.
Second, if a person is already giving to a truly needy work that falls within Biblical parameters, then I would state that they should continue to give towards that work as the Lord directs.
Third, I believe the Bible teaches grace giving. We are to cheerfully and ungrudgingly as God loves a cheerful giver. However, I do believe that if at all possible, then each believer should give their funds through their local church. This may mean giving but designating it for a specific work. There is much more to this that I will have to address in a blogpost, but let me just say that what a church does with their funds is just as important as where they stand doctrinally. My wife and I have had to leave a church because they had started to become openly corrupt with the use of their funds. Missions support was practically non-existent and was halted so other “important projects” could be completed like buildings, higher pay for staff, etc.
Fourth, while the Bible knows of no “universal church theory” as taught in many circles, I believe that it is only through the local church that God chooses to do His work. Ephesians makes it clear that we are His Bride to be, but that we are found in local bodies working together. Churches are therefore to be independent but also inter-dependent. I will also tie all this in on my next post, Lord willing.
I hope this clarifies a few things for you and that the next post I put up will also help yourself as well as other readers. Finally, to answer your first question, some choose to give monthly an amount anywhere from $20, $50 or more per month. Some collect their spare change with their children and send it as they get to a certain amount. Others choose to give one time gifts. Our purpose in sharing is that the Lord will impress upon the hearts of His people the needs of others outside our little realms, and whatever they choose to give will be received as a blessing from the Lord.
Thank you again. – TJM
Thank you for the answers to my questions! :)
I will look forward to answers from you in a post sometime, as well!
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