Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
And a ruler asked Him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery. Do not murder. Do not steal. Do not bear false witness. Honor your father and mother.' And he said, "All these I have kept from my youth." When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, "How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." Those who heard it said, "Then who can be saved?" But He said, "What is impossible with man is possible with God." And Peter said, "See, we have left our homes and followed you." And he said to them, "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life."
In America, we pride ourselves on being number one. You hear people say that we live in the greatest country on Earth, and people have strong ties to our nation. There are many who greatly enjoy celebrating the freedoms we have as American citizens, as they should. But there is also a side of America which is sadly self-involved and self-serving. We look out for ourselves and do not take the time to get to know the people around us. There are people around us in our workplaces and neighborhoods who are broken and hurting, but we prefer to stay inside our big houses and do what is best for us-binge watch Netflix shows or dream about our next remodel by perusing Pinterest.
Yet there is so, so much more to this life we have been given. I say all these things not as a bitter diatribe but as a wake-up call to us as believers. Our lives are not our own. We have been crucified with Christ, and our freedom in Christ is not for us to pursue our own selfish pleasures, but to pursue righteousness. In America, we have so many distractions. Our social media worlds are available to us 24/7/365 due to our smart phones. Cable television has hundreds of channels, and Netflix has hundreds of movies. We have stores with thousands of products available for our one stop shopping needs.
And yet we find ourselves empty. We are the abusers of alcohol and drugs who self-medicate. We numb out through social media and ignore our consciences that tell us we should go talk to that neighbor or call that friend. Our lives, when lived for ourselves, are empty and lackluster.
So Jesus says that the answer is not found in the accumulation of more things, but in His kingdom. Interesting how He always turns our worlds upside down in the light of His holy perspective. According to the Scripture above in Luke, it is a miracle that anyone in America is a follower of Christ. Because whether we choose to believe it or not, the majority of us are very, very wealthy.
Consider the following statistics:
- 80% of the world's population lives on less than $10 a day.
- Half of the world lives on less than $2.50 a day.
- The poorest 40% of the world's population accounts for 5% of global income. The richest 20% accounts for three-quarters of world income.
- Twenty-two thousand children die every day due to poverty-related reasons.
- Around 27-28% of all children in developing countries are estimated to be underweight or stunted.*
We cannot ignore or argue with the facts. So what do we do in light of them? How then should we live?
Uganda, much like many of the nations on the continent of Africa, is a third world country. Yet it's inhabitants are a people who live in community. They love one another. And the believers I was privileged to meet have an unshakable hope that is found in Jesus alone. Their life-free of distractions that bog so many Americans down and enslave them to the fear of man- is one we should envy. Yes, they are financially poor. But their lives are a beautiful reflection of Christ, because they know that in Him is found joy and lasting contentment that cannot be replaced by material things.
Lord, may we learn to find our all in You alone, because You will always be more than enough.
*Anup Shah, "Poverty Facts and Stats," Global Issues, last updated January 7, 2013, http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats.