Christian Life 

Micah Sunday - prophetic call or cop-out?


by
Watchman

 
  Famine

The Micah Challenge
is an initiative supported by many Christian organisations and is allied to the (secular) Global Call to Action Against Poverty.

The aim of 'Micah Sunday' - scheduled for 19 October this year - is to challange political leaders to address the situation of extreme poverty around the world.

One press release states:
“If the Church worldwide can just raise its voice on the issue of extreme poverty, then huge changes can be made. This generation could yet be remembered as the one that wiped extreme poverty from the face of the earth.” (Note 1.)

Whilst it is good and proper to be aware of and highlight the problems of inequality, oppression, disadvantage and poverty, there is surely a deeper question in all of this for Christians.

"Is there not a risk of well-fed Christians in the wealthy developed nations (i.e. us) being accused of hypocrisy by continuing to enjoy the benefits and lifestyles that we do, whilst others (Christians included) are living in conditions of famine and deprivation?"

Do we read in the Bible of Jesus exhorting the Roman authorities to do more to help the poor? What he does say is addressed to his followers:
"If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. (Luke 6:29-3)

And James wrote:
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.   (James 2:14-17)

If the Christian community in our land wishes to be truly 'prophetic' in our concern for the poor, perhaps the first thing to consider, before any appeals to unbelievers and goverments are even considered,  is making sacrificial cuts in our personal standards of living prior to urging others - and at no direct cost to ourselves - to care for the poor? (Note 2.)

It seems that on his recent visit to Inverness, Luis Palau spoke of one city church in American which - on every calendar month with 5 Sundays - took its church offering around asa gift to a poorer church in the same area.
How much do we see of this expression of love in our own country? And how much do we need to express it towards others abroad who have much less than even the poorest amongst us in the UK?


Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.
But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.
They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything-- all she had to live on."   (Mark 12:41-44)

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Note 1: The eradication of poverty is not only unrealistic but is also unbiblical. Jesus said that there would always be the poor amongst us (Matt 26:11), and the book of Revelation makes it clear that the nearer we get to Jesus return so too will there be an increase in the gap between the rich and the poor (Rev. 6:6 & 18:13).

Note 2:
And at a corporate level, how can churches in the West justify spending millions on bigger and finer buildings when others lack even a basic roof over their heads?

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Ed footnote:
Is there something that Christians Together website could or should do to express God's care and love for the poor and suffering?





Watchman, 21/10/2008

Feedback:
David Gillan 22/10/2008 10:41
I agree with this, we are more interested in our own well being than those around us. I personally find it despicable that most modern days Christians would look down on those who dont have a home, a car and a job. Its a pity those people dont realise that these things are not Christian goals in themselves. I worship in a church where people have boats, 2 cars, holiday home and even one has 6 cars. Yet the elderly walk to church in the rain with walking sticks because no one will offer a lift. Its disgraceful and at the end of the day it comes down to a failure in our leadership to set an example.

Dave
Colin Johnstone (Guest) 22/10/2008 12:05
David Gillan's remarks should provoke a few thoughts. Take a look round the car park during the service at any "evangelical" church and you will hardly be hit by symbols of poverty. And of course after the service, they will all go off and have lunch "fellowship" in some nice suburban home where no doubt such weighty spiritual matters like jobs, promotion, foreign holidays, new cars, new houses and such like will be discussed while tucking into a "sumptuous repast". Prosperity theology is alive and well.

The evangelical churches are little more than comfy social clubs for the middle classes.
Penny Lee 22/10/2008 15:11
I do agree that far too much attention is given to building up wealth and 'security' for oneself. However, just because someone has a nice home doesn't necessarily mean they are not giving generously to God's work. There can never be any excuse for six cars etc. or weekly visits to the hairdresser, and so on. However, I really don't believe God meant for all Christians to live in poverty. Look at David and Solomon!

The danger we all have to watch out for is that our focus does not shift from God to trying to protect our investments or feeling we are self-sufficient. There's no virtue in deciding to live in a drug-ridden council estate when we could have done better for ourselves and given more of what we had to God's work.

I am not in any well off but was privileged to have a modest musical keyboard. When a much better model came out, I made a promise to God that, if He supplied the means for it, I would use it solely for His glory. The following week I was handed an envelope with £1,500 from a very unexpected source and the keyboard was purchased. I have tried to use it for His service and feel completely at peace with the fact that a large sum was used in this way.

There may well be someone in the congregation who is thinking to themselves that it was sinful to spend so much on a keyboard when it could have gone to help those living in poverty. Well, there are well off spiritually starving people all around us and if, through my singing, they can be reached through the words of a song, then I'm more than happy to accept the gift which God gave me to improve my performance.

It's not the money itself which is the problem, it's the love of it - love which belongs to God alone.
John Parker (Guest) 22/10/2008 16:23
I agree with all that has been said. And we shouldn't go on a guilt trip if God has blessed us in some way or another (whether it be a car, a holiday or an organ).

However I think the point that is being made is that in respect to our concerns for others, it is too easy to ask God to answer out prayers without recognising that we have it is our power (often) to bring the answer - or part of the answer - through what He has given to us.

The other point is whether it is right to "badger" non-believers to do what we should, as Christians, be doing ourselves.

Personally I am ashamed when believers from Asia and Africa come to the UK and see how "Christianity" is lived out in the West.

And how do struggling congregations view the rich suburban "Mega-church" scene?
Penny Lee 22/10/2008 16:43
John,

I accept that on many occasions we don't do what we can with the resources we have been given and our biggest concern can be what's happening on the Stock Market scene rather than what's happening to the people we are trying to help.

You're right about badgering non-believers. We should be doing what Jesus did - lead by example.

'And how do struggling congregations view the rich suburban "Mega-church" scene?'

With great pity, I would imagine. More often than not, the struggling congregations are the ones having the most effect as their struggle keeps them closer to God.

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Christians Together in the Highlands and Islands > Christian Life > Micah Sunday - prophetic challenge or cop-out?