I can still remember the day that a global consciousness moved from somewhere in the back of my mind to the forefront.
I was leading a women’s small group through Nina Roesner’s book, the Respect Dare (www.therespectdare.com). If you’ve heard of the Love Dare, the Respect Dare is a similar concept geared at showing women how to be Godly wives. Day 15’s challenge asks us to look at our treasure — our finances — and evaluate our perspectives. One of the tasks was to do an online search on poverty to learn about the way that the majority of the world lives.
Although I had always had some sort of background understanding that much of the world lives in poverty, it wasn’t until I did that search that day that the reality began to sink in and move from a general notion to a stinging truth; Given my location in the world and husband’s income, I am far richer than I ever knew and millions of people are far poorer than I ever understood.
One of the sites I visited was www.poverty.com, which states that 25,000 people die each day from hunger and related illness, etc. That’s one every 3.5 seconds. Most of the victims are children. There is a ticker on the page that adds a new name to the casualty list, illustrating the point in a very real way every 3.5 seconds.
The image was almost too much for me.
I began relating so many things in my daily life to this reality. Standing in line at the grocery store, I’d find myself thinking, someone just died of hunger while I’ve got a huge cart full of stuff. How can that be? It’s not right. And by the time I’d finished that thought, another 3.5 seconds had gone by.
I was so ashamed of all the times I’d complained about not having enough money for this luxury or that comfort. I couldn’t help but ask myself, ‘What am I doing?’
And my definition of needs versus wants suddenly began to change.
It’s not that I was living extravagantly, but I was certainly not using the resources God had given me for His glory. Though my husband, bless him, had been telling me this in many ways for years, there’s something about a conviction that comes from the Holy Spirit that is much more audible and palatable for us rebellious wives.
So I made a commitment to financial change.
The practical daily application began to shape over a period of months. I found myself doing things like setting a budget at the grocery store, buying less pricy convenience items and doing less impulse buying. I decided that never again was I going to fill more than one cart during a Wal-mart visit. Don’t judge. I had six kids in my house at the time, including my four and two foster children, and they required a lot of stuff. And Wal-mart is a 70-mile drive you only make once or twice a month.
I made a decision to scale down Christmas and birthday spending. My kids had been downright spoiled and looking back I can see that I was meeting my own needs rather than theirs. What I mean by that is they didn’t really care about the over-the-top birthday parties and presents and having tons of packages under the tree. I cared about giving them those things much more than they cared about getting them. It’s been a blessing to see that they are much happier with experiences and quality time together along with a modest gift from us, rather than some extravagant ‘big-wow’ gift that was going to be boring or broken in little to no time.
Several months in to this change, we decided as a family to commit to lowering our food budget by eating simply for at least one week a month so we could give more to those in need. Let’s just say we’ve gotten pretty creative on rice and bean week.
And you wanna know what?
We don’t miss a thing.
We aren’t feeling deprived. We aren’t going hungry. Not a chance. We, and should I specifically say, I, am no longer looking to stuff or food to fill emotional voids. Rather, we are all filled with joy at the idea of helping others, whether it’s someone right here in our home town or someone in a Mexican village or at an AIDS orphanage in Zimbabwe.
I know God’s called us to help each other. Each one of us is called to love our neighbors and think more highly of others than ourselves. God has called us to be selfless servants and disciples, and one way we can do that is by shifting our focus off our comforts and gratification and putting that focus on Him and His people.
Life is tough. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, life is tough. Stuff happens, and it hurts. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that we need each other. In this town, on this planet, in this life, we need each other. And sometimes, that means financially.
Deuteronomy 15:7 “If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother.”
Isaiah 58:10 “and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”