Sunday, August 04, 2013

Your Help Is Hurting, A Response: Part II - Widows, Orphans and Drive Thru Jesus

The other day in my post Your Help is Hurting, A Response I shared some initial thoughts about the Jerry Boyer interview with Peter Greer in Forbes.

In the article a major premise stems from the mindset that instead of throwing money at those in need, Christians/churches should use there money to do micro-finance instead of the efforts that have been done previously.

In continuation of my response article, I wanted to take the discussion a step further.

In many ways, Peter Greer and I would probably agree (we've never talked before) - but I see how money in itself, or even short term trips focused on building projects, or other such efforts often are not problem solving.

At the same time one of the things that strikes me in the article in the feeling that micro-fiance, or small loans to help local entrepreneurs create their own industry is not always a universal solution to the cause of the Christian calling.

I think in terms of creating a grass-roots system that helps address the needs of developing nations, that micro-finance could certainly be part of the solution. Yet, the cause of the gospel is not to establish a certain level or metric of developed status.

In my college education as an international economics major we would talk about Less Developed Countries (LDCs) regularly, and we would discuss different metrics and plans that have hurt or hindered countries. We looked at the "Asian Tigers" and the way that they fostered strong export led growth through things like semiconductors in Taiwan, or how import-led growth in south America had not created the desired effects. We talked about corruption, natural resources, and metrics surrounding families, pollution, GDP, and income inequality to evaluate development.

In many ways, efforts to bring micro-loans to the developing world can have a very positive impact on economic growth, which in turn leads to positive impacts in many other parts of a country, such as health factors, democracy, and other social factors. In many ways, I feel like the Christian should care about these results of economic development such as the removal of human rights abuses, improvements in health, and even the availability of basic necessities to a wider range in the population.

Yet, when I read the Bible, I think that in many cases the call of the Christian at the indivual level is clear to take care of people who are in need. The group of those in need can extend beyond the category of widow and orphan, but the call to care for these groups specifically is certainly called out in the Bible (such as James 1:27). The poor are also included in these categories as well.

I believe God desires us to to use our creativity, and so helping achieve economic development in "LDCs" can be of great value, and Christians should want to help lead and assist in these efforts. Yet, in continuation of some of my thoughts from my previous post,

  1. I don't thank that Christian's should settle on thinking one method (micro-fiance, or any other method) is the single solution to fulfilling the Gospel mission in the world
  2. I don't think Christians should think that the problem is so big or complex that we are individual exempt from the call of helping the poor, the widows, the orphans, the "least of these"
Drive Thru Jesus
Where I think my heart is, and the heart of Peter Greer in the article regarding micro-finance, is that if there is an opportunity for the Christian community to develop is in figuring out a way in our modern world to not just "do" missions or simply "give" money as a one-time act that doesn't have the opportunity to bear lasting fruit.

I think there are churches, missionaries, Christian-indivuals and organizations that have their hearts on this aim.

This problem isn't just a problem relating to developing nations, in can exist locally as well. About four years ago I wrote a post called "The Tuohys, Drive By Service, and Thoughts on Giving" where I responded positively to the long-term investment made by Sean and Leigh Ann Tuohy with Michael Oher as potrayed in the film The Blindside. Sean and Leigh Ann were a powerful force for true and genuine life change in Michael's life, a change that took time, personal sacrifice (time and money). In many ways, this sacrifice is infinitely harder than writing a check, or even, taking a short-term mission trip.

Don't get me wrong - there is still often value in writing the check or taking a short-term trip, but I think that amazing things happen when we give in a way that is at least willing to see our service/love/giving through to completion. 

I think of the story of The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37) in this regard. In Jesus' parable of "who is our neighbor" he shares of a traveler who is beat up along a road and when many people pass, one man, a Samaritan helps him. The way the Samaritan helps is not complicated (no big plan, no pre-arranged program, no micro-finance scheme, etc), instead he helps him in need, takes him to an inn, gives money for the traveler to be cared for, and even gives the inn keeper a blank check so to speak telling the inn keeper he will reimburse him for other expenses in caring for him. This portrayal of the ethic of Jesus should be compelling and challenging in how we live. This parable comes with an individual mandate to the believer in how we give and serve. 

It is a very comprehensive style of giving that is not always quick, easy, or cheap. And yet it is meaningful, and in addition to bringing the life giving truth of the Gospel, it should also care for the needy and afflicted. 

This style of giving is much harder, and I speak in a way that desires to not be the type of person who is part of a Drive Thru Jesus schema, but instead is responsive and willing to make a sacrifice.

Coming full circle, I do feel like there are many times where we can do better at this, and I applaud the Forbes interviewee, Peter Greer and his organization Hope International for applying their skill and heart to this work. Work that has a long-term goal in sight. Yet, I feel a sense of caution to the thought that "this is it," as there is hardly a single solution for living out the good news of Christ. There are those who need care, love and help and an entrepreneurial approach to economic development might not be able to assist one who is young, old, sick, or handicapped. They might just need help, and they might not be able to wait for the general rise in per capita income to sweep them up into a better life. 

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