The messages and sermons that most resonate with my spirit these days are those about sacrificial living and embracing a lifestyle that seeks to spend less, acquire less, and give more of all we have - time, energy and money - to reach the poor, the oppresses, the marginalized and under-resourced.
Trouble is, as U2 says, "I don't believe in riches but you should see where I live." I would like to think that I am conflicted, but I think that may be a cop-out.
I listened to a message by John Ortberg not long ago that quoted Michael Novak who says that humans hold to 3 kinds of beliefs: Public, Private and Core. Public beliefs are those things we want others to believe about us whether true or not. We see a lot of this in politics. Private beliefs are those things we want to believe, or think we believe. But when they are tested, they are abandoned and we discover we did not really believe them at all. Core beliefs are those we operate as though are true without even giving them much or any thought at all. Of course, Jesus came to change our core beliefs.
What I wonder is how many of the people who are like me and say that we believe in committing ourselves to reaching the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized and under-resourced, actually live a lifestyle that demonstrates that commitment? Or, when I say that I am conflicted between caring for the poor, and living a lifestyle of affluence, am I really conflicted, or is the truth that I just really do not believe that the way of Jesus is better? If I have to say, "I don't believe in riches but you should see where I live," maybe I really do believe in riches, and not much else.
Just a note; I am not taking the U2 song as Gospel and saying that riches are bad. It is the misuse of riches that is bad. So how do those of us who have riches come our way, use them? Do they pass through our hands or do we hold on to them and use them for personal gain, pleasure and comfort?
I'd like to think that Jesus is changing my core and that my movement toward a more sacrificial and open-handed way of life is part of that.
If you want to see some folks who do get this talking about how God is moving in them to reach victims of severe poverty and genocide, check out http://www.ccn.tv/darfur/. Peace.