In my journey of downsizing and "letting go" of my stuff...I have often thought about what it would feel like if I truly had nothing. What if I was so poor and in need, that I didn't have even ONE thing that I could get rid of? I've never been in that situation, so my mind can't even fathom it, but so many people live with SO LITTLE, with no end in sight.
During this holiday season especially, I am reminded over and over of how much I do have. We are wealthy beyond measure. If I need something, I can go and buy it. If we need socks, shoes, food, bedding, or eyeglasses, we just go buy it. With that said, the following statistics are shocking...
- Half the world — nearly three billion people — live on less than two dollars a day. 1
- “The combined wealth of the world’s 200 richest people hit $1 trillion in 1999; the combined incomes of the 582 million people living in the 43 least developed countries is $146 billion.” 1
What would Jesus say to this? You don't have to look far to find out. Jesus talks about the poor A LOT. He talks about giving your belongings to them... feeding them...caring for them. Basically, treat them as you would want to be treated...and most of all: SHARE your stuff! The second statistic above is just mind boggling to me. When Jesus looks down on us, he sees enough food, enough money, and enough shelter to keep everyone in the world from wanting. But not many will share.
"John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same." Luke 3:11
If we take this scripture to heart/literally...how can we biblically own more than we need? This has been on my mind a lot as I go through my possessions. I ask myself..."Who could use this RIGHT NOW?". Sure, I "might" need it "someday"...but I can give it to someone that needs it today. But what about those homeless/needy people who appear to have the means to get out of "their situation"? Doesn't giving to them just enable them to remain homeless? I truly think that if we are giving abundantly to others, Jesus will take care of the rest. Of course, exercise due caution, and don't give cash directly. There are so many other ways to help.
What was so different about the early Christian church? Why could they live this way and today we find it beyond impossible?
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. Acts 4:32
All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. Acts 2:44-46
Why does one neighborhood need a lawn mower in every garage? Why does each individual family spend money on things they will only use a few times a year? Why not have a common area where things can be "checked out" from? Part of the reason is that we have isolated ourselves and no one knows their neighbors anymore. We are an automated and isolated nation. I am fascinated by communal living and intentional communities with this type of possession "system"...but that's a different blog post altogether! :)
I'm quite disturbed about the homeless situation in our country. Let me start by saying that I don't know anything about being homeless. I have never volunteered at a homeless shelter, I have never housed anyone who was homeless, and I've never been without a place to sleep at night. But I just can't stop thinking about it.
The majority of homeowners think that they "need" a guest bedroom that will be used a few times a year. These rooms sit empty when there are people living on the streets. Not that all of you who have guest bedrooms should go and find a homeless person and put them up...I'm just interested in this crazy trend.
Shane Claiborne, author of "The Irresistible Revolution" has a lot to say about the homeless and how Jesus would treat them. This book is hands down my favorite of the entire year. I jokingly call it "my second Bible". It will forever change you. Here is a review...
If there is such a thing as a disarming radical, 30-year-old Claiborne is it. A former Tennessee Methodist and born-again, high school prom king, Claiborne is now a founding member of one of a growing number of radical faith communities. His is called the Simple Way, located in a destitute neighborhood of Philadelphia. It is a house of young believers, some single, some married, who live among the poor and homeless. They call themselves "ordinary radicals" because they attempt to live like Christ and the earliest converts to Christianity, ignoring social status and unencumbered by material comforts. Claiborne's chatty and compelling narrative is magnetic—his stories (from galvanizing a student movement that saved a group of homeless families from eviction to reaching Mother Teresa herself from a dorm phone at 2 a.m.) draw the reader in with humor and intimacy, only to turn the most common ways of practicing religion upside down. He somehow skewers the insulation of suburban living and the hypocrisy of wealthy churches without any self-righteous finger pointing. "The world," he says, "cannot afford the American dream." Claiborne's conviction, personal experience and description of others like him are a clarion call to rethink the meaning of church, conversion and Christianity; no reader will go away unshaken.
It's my dream to go visit his community, The Simple Way. I would love to interact with that group for a month and learn to truly look beyond appearances and love beyond myself.
One of my favorite singers, Ani Difranco, wrote a song called Subdivision. You can hear it on this site. Her music and her message are beyond amazing. And although I don't agree with all of her opinions...I think she is one of the most talented and brave voices out there. Here are some of the lyrics of Subdivision that have really stuck with me:
I remember the first time I saw someone lying on the cold street I thought, "I can't just walk past you, this can't just be true." But I learned by example to just keep moving my feet. It's amazing the things that we all learn to do. So we're led by denial like lambs to the slaughter Serving empires of style and carbonated sugar water and the old farm road's a four-lane that leads to the mall and my dreams are all guillotines waiting to fall And I wonder then what it will take for my country to rise. First we admit our mistakes and then we open our eyes.
Whenever I have visited a large city...with homeless lying "on the cold street"...something churns within me. I wonder what circumstances led to them losing their home. Drugs? Losing a job? Some other addiction? Just a bad string of events with no family to help? I always want to ask. But like Ani says ... I've "learned by example to just keep moving my feet". So sad.
I went to see the movie "The Pursuit of Happyness " a few weeks ago and it deeply moved me. I depicts the true story of a single dad and his son...fighting to make it...and they do end up on the streets for awhile. It was heartbreaking, but such a wonderful film. Not a feel good film, but one that will open your eyes.
These thoughts have been on my mind for so long...it's such a hard topic to talk about because if we truly LIVE out what Jesus has shown us...it requires us to ACT. It requires us to take care of others unselfishly. I know that there are many who can debate this topic more eloquently than I can...arguing that the wealthy need their large homes and toys to minister to those people who will only respond that way to Christ. I'm still thinking through all of that...and I know that God uses everyone where they are at right now, and with the possessions they have right now. But how much is too much? Where do we draw the line between having excess possessions to "minister to others" and living as Christ commands us? Where is the line between being too radical in your lack of possessions (if there is such a thing) and having too much?