Thursday, July 17, 2008

Saving the world is sexy...

"I’m very concerned about the continual influence of consumerism Christianity and a Christianity that is very self-centered. Even in some of the social justice initiatives that I see, I wonder at times if it’s really about social change and kingdom advancement or if it’s about the sense of accomplishment and adventure one gets from the experience." -Efrem Smith

"Take care! Don't do your good deeds publicly, to be admired,
because then you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.
-Matthew 6:1

There is a reality to the Christian life that is only found after you have drained through all the foamy filler at the top of the glass. Much of the first blush of life in God is an innocent, yet still self focused act of indulging self. Now granted it is a "religious self" but after all the tired churchy platitudes are scraped off your bumper and self righteous goody goodyness is finally the end you discover that "you" were still at the center. This is especially true with those of us who are drawn towards "ministry to the poor" in whatever form it takes. There is a genuine compassion that can fuel a madness to become Jesus incarnate, a danger of falling into the error trying to "Bring Jesus down" (Romans 10:6). It's a noble endeavor to want to help alleviate suffering of your neighbor as Jesus taught us to do in His parable of the Good Samaritan. But it becomes almost idolatry to move from simple charity to ending World Hunger, Sickness & Disease, Social Evils, War, Poverty, AIDS, Global Warming, Deforestation and whatever other sin is in the sights of the current Philanthropy Band Wagon.

The "Messiah-complex" is becoming so huge that at any moment I am sure we will come to realize that we don't need Jesus to ever return because we will soon discover that....we can save the planet!

How many teats can we grow until we realize there will always be one more greedy mouth sucking off the breast of charity?
And quite frankly most of us want it to be that way...because we "feel good" being that sow who's getting all the attention. In fact we secretly hope to be on the cover of "O", Rollingstone or Christianity Today as the newly christened and publicly worshipped, hot new multi-breasted goddess of the hour.

But the truth is, we soon discover that we are not called to change the much as testify to a change in our world. Now granted that change is one that ushers love into the center of our lives but not in a self serving way. It's the whole point of doing works of service in act that unfortunately is not in vogue today. We have celebrity's of charity all over. You see their names in lights, on the covers of their books with their smiling faces and testimonies of how they are changing the world. They sit in plush couches on TV or in the Pulpits pontificating about their plans and strategies to turn the planet back into eden in less time than it takes to publish their next book.

The really lazy people are yearning to worship "Heros" and the more dysfunctional are trying to become the hero.
It's that motivation that is fueling so much of our works of mission today. I stop and wonder if the truth is just that we are really a bunch of empty people frantically trying to fill that inner void with our chronic do gooding.

It's seeming like more and more vanity and chasing after the wind.


Chris Reilly said...

Yes, but...

Isn't it better that good works get done for any sake than not done at all? Angelina Jolie and her ilk make me a little queasy with their very public good works- indeed the very deity of celebrity is composed of both enough good works and bad behavior that it is as if they are just like us regular humans, just bigger and better. No, I do not like it when we're suppose to worship them for being so goody good. But, it is not better that they are actually doing the work in africa? Is the world worse for it or better?

If we just could line up enough rock stars to do a massive benefit concert, we could solve ALL the world's problems, right?

Truly, this world needs a savior, BADLY!

But while we are waiting on Jesus, shouldn't we encourage good works to be done, even for selfish reasons?

Like for example, I wonder how many wealthy people would give large sums of money to good causes if there wasn't a tax benefit for doing so, and perhaps their name on a plaque? Cheers to the anonomous donor who gives to the glory of God, but the cold calculating, vanity seeking philanthropist's money is still green!

Oh well. My discombobulated $.02 worth.

Unknown said...

I'm not advocating a "good works" free life. I'm wrestling with the words of Jesus ("Take care! Don't do your good deeds publicly, to be admired,
because then you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.-Matthew 6:1). He seemed pretty persistent all through the gospels at keeping His works under wrap and encouraged his media team to zip their lips. No newsletters, no radio ads on Rome 101.9, no full page, glossy fold outs in the Jerusalem Post, no pimp'n t-shirts, donkey and chariot stickers and no kick backs for goods and services received. Yes, I agree if the poor are fed, the sick are cured, the suffering are helped, the world is better or at least the world of that person is better.

I think the "Geo-ness" of it all is removing the personal call and responsibility of living it out for a lot of people. Or it's making it so "big" that the smallness that is daily required to be seen gets missed. And I think in the end...most is going to burn up or be unrewarded because of the heart issues, which is what Jesus seemed top be concerned about. If it matters to should matter to us.

I know it isn't hip to wait for a "coming day" when we can make this one so sweet right here, right now...but Jesus did call us to think, act, pray and long for the dawning of an age to come. Not that this one doesn't matter, it is the seed but the flower is coming.

Chris Reilly said...

True. True.

It is hard enough to live out life as a humble steward of the people and things around you. Now we have to do so in a world of mass communication, near instant travel, and incredible wealth/poverty. It is complicated, it is global, we are all connected in bizarre and unseen ways. Fortunately, I am not tasked with fixing it all. That would suck.

MaryMGlynn said...

This was a very powerful post, believe you me I have ran across this myself in the past with volunteers who have even joined our charity. I had one so angry at me she called me Hitler because I didn't put her in charge and make her the known person for a particular part of our charity.
All of us at different points in our lives desire in a way to be recognized. Its when we are humbled and God shows us the true heart and compassion in giving in HIS name not our own.
This post was right on and I am reading it to take it to heart in my own life. Thank you for posting this. I needed to hear this, just like everyone does. REALITY CHECK!

Joseph Pulikotil said...


The Church in Kerala is running super markets, renting out buildings, running milk dairies etc. just like any other commercial establishment with the motive of making profit.

Best wishes!

Unknown said...

Take care! Don't do your good deeds publicly, to be admired, because then you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.-Matthew 6:1

My point in the post was tackling the "motives" which according to Jesus cause some to "lose" their reward. I am not talking about the call and responsibility of caring for the poor. I'm fully engaged in that endeavor. It's the inner issues of motives that become exposed through our work with the poor. The work becomes a mirror that reveals the heart. The poor become Jesus and He speaks back to us in our attempts to alleviate, conquer or sustain those suffering from the ills of humanity. Giving you body to be burned, selling everything for the needs of the poor are realities that can be done without love. That is the crux that Jesus and scripture speak about. True in the end if a mouth is fed that was hungry that is a good thing. But Christianity isn't just a life of outward deeds alone, it's a way of life that produces fruit that grows out of an inner life that is being renewed day by day. The inside is critical to the Lord. I am confronting more and more the reality that so much of the outside stuff isn't a reflection of an inner work of Life but an attempt to compensate for the lack of life within. I truly do not think that is merely a mental 1st world philosophical luxury but a true spiritual concern. Even though maybe on the surface it might appear like the ramblings of someone who has to much time on their hands to just nit pick at motives. In the end the pragmatic issues might seem more down to earth but the inside of the cup is a Christian gospel concern.

Andy said...

Don't do your good deeds publicly, to be admired, because then you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. Matthew 6:1

When you are doing "outreach" or "outward deeds" it is sometimes impossible to not do them publicly, most of the time you are working WITH the public. However, we are talking about motives. As followers of Christ, we should be agents of resurrection. The term "agent" connotates secrecy. Although Jesus had throngs of people who followed him, He didn't make it a big production, He loved people simply.

"The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field." Matthew 13:31

The man loved simply (planting the tiny mustard seed) and then allowed the Lord to water it. Many times I believe Christians think that things need to be bigger, better, larger, drawing more numbers, and only then can God work. We have seen that proven wrong time and time again on our travels. Simplicity is Kingdom work.

Unknown said...

My point exactly.