For quite a while now I’ve been hearing people say, “If you truly believe in God you will follow this or that political plan to help the poor.”
Here’s the thing….
Regardless of politics, if you call yourself a Christian, there is a certain standard that your Lord and Savior told you to live up to.
Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourslves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted…. for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
And the Bible tells us this story:
As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasurey. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “I tell you the truth,” he said. “This poor widow has put in 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.”
This ideal is hard to accept!
I love Jesus and call myself a follower of his…. but am I really willing to give up all my possessions? All? My house? My computer? My car? The clothes off my back? Maybe… but it would be HARD for me to do. Really hard.
Judging by the numbers, I’m not the only one who feels that way.
The Old Testament Law was to give 10% of your wealth back to God. Not just any 10%, but the BEST 10%. Most churches still encourage that practice (I guess telling people to give EVERYTHING is considered over the top. See, “it would be HARD,” above.). Yet, even 10% seems to be too much to ask.
Consider this math:
According to Wikkipedia, 73% of Americans consider themselves to be Christians. That is 227,462,099 people. Assuming an average family size of 2.6 people, it’s 87,485,423 Christian households. If the average household income is $50,054 that means there should be $437,864,542,115 each and every year flowing into the church coffers AND BACK OUT AGAIN in service to “the least of these.”
That’s right… if so-called Christians put their money where their mouth is, there would be HALF A TRILLION DOLLARS coming just from the USA to take care of those who are unable to take care of themselves.
I’m not talking about Christians giving up all of their worldly possessions, as that crazy radical named Jesus suggested. I’m just talking about 10%.
The reality is, only a small percentage of people who call themselves “Christian” actually have any kind of active faith. Those few give an average “tithe” of less than 3%. Many churches are finding it’s barely enough to keep the lights on.
We (and please understand I am including myself in this) get so worried about keeping up with all of the material things that society says we need that we feel we can’t afford to give 10%. But, seriously… do you give 10% of your income to the cable company? Do you give it to the bank to make the payment on your “extra” vehicle? Do you give it to the stores at the mall to be sure that your clothing is stylish?
I suggest that we, the church in the prosperous (yes, even in these economic times we are prosperous compared to many) Western world, need to take a long hard look at our own practices before we start saying that God wants non-believers to pay 40% in taxes in order to care for the poor.
If you call yourself a Christian and you are living comfortably (or even just a tad uncomfortably) and failing to give at least 10% I suggest you examine your habits. I know… believe me, I KNOW, it can be hard to give 10% when you feel like you can’t even live off of the 100%, but, as a Christian you are to have faith. Take a look at “the lilies of the field who neither sow nor reap” and know that God isn’t going to leave you in need when you are being faithful to give to Him.
And if you are in a position of leadership in the church, I pray that you examine very closely what your church is doing with the precious, hard-earned tithes of the faithful. Are we using that money to buy fancy buildings and cool electronics that make us seem “relevant?” Or are we using it to serve the needy, as we would serve Christ himself.
I know… there is a time and a place to spend money on buildings and pretty things. I’m just saying that we need to be sure our priorities are right.
As for social welfare… well, that’s a political issue, not a religious one. Vote however your conscience leads you. But don’t blame non-believers for not helping the poor when the church is setting such a dismal example.