November 24, 2009

What do we do when we don't know what to do?

I received this tweet late last night from a friend:
"Giving out of coercion to a need that is uncertain goes sour in your stomach. How do we know who really needs it?!?"
My first reaction to this is to break because my friend is doing ministry in a place that I would be afraid to tread and is doing it with a boldness only the Holy Spirit could muster in an individual. I begin to pray for vigilance and strength that my friends may know His peace this night and see His work through in this moment.

My second thought moves to a more reflective pondering both inwardly and outwardly. When it comes down to it, how can I be the determinating factor to who receives that with which the Lord has entrusted me with? And if I continually pour out and pour out, this world has some restrictions on it that don't allow us to purchase things like food and houses, or more simple things like warmth, water, peace and shelter without adequate resources. And so I return to myself and consider how I can responsibly pour out in a manner that is adequate to the requirements that Christ has called me to while remaining a good steward.

In my ramblings, I am convinced that there must be a level of rationing or gauging what all I pour out, whether it is resources, food, time or any other form of assistance and charity to any person. However, I must also trust that I am not the only agent at work. I am not responsible for convicting of the heart. I am simply called to Love.

Love Me. Love Others.

No qualifications. No variables. No hidden strings attached. Just plain, simple, crazy and outrageous love.

I love my friend and his frustration because I have been there, in his situation and I've seen the neighborhood, and I know that there is nothing easy about any part of the situation.

But, their situation spurs my personal reflection on my Love and how I express that Love. May I continue to come to understand how Christ loves me and in turn, learn how to better love His Church, the people of this world and, ultimately, Him in a way that reflects His love for me.

To God be the Glory, for he provides us with the strength and power to be used by Him. May we understand this power and strength through His Love and Holy Spirit.


Amanda said...

"And so I return to myself and consider how I can responsibly pour out in a manner that is adequate to the requirements that Christ has called me to while remaining a good steward."

It kind of sounds like you're saying 'how can I meet the minimum requirements without having to give more than I would like to'.

I don't believe that's where your heart is.

I feel wary of having a way of rationalizing or gauging what you 'pour out'. That's what many service's to the needy do (food banks, welfare, food stamps, assistance programs, etc) and many people who are needy don't get the help they need because the stipulations don't make allowances for thier specific circumstances.

Last month I gave money to a woman who was standing on the streets holding a sign saying she was homeless. My work partner had a hard time with that because of how much money I gave her along with the fact that I had no way of knowing if she was really needy, or how she would use the money.

I found it interesting because I kept thinking, if God prompts you to give, it doesn't matter if you know the answers to those questions. You were obedient and what comes after that is between the person you helped and God. And I think you are saying this somewhat.

But I would go further to say that we as Christians are always so careful about anything that has to do with money and we wrap our concerns in excuses of being a good steward of what God has given us.

Casting Crowns has a song called 'Somewhere In the Middle' and it says things like:

"how close can I get Lord, to my surrender without losing all control?" and this is what I think of everytime we wonder when we've given enough and how much we should keep for ourselves. I believe that in the face of God we haven't given enough until we've given everything we have.

The fact is that giving away your stuff, your money, your time... is being a good steward of what you have because God does call us to take care of others and to give. Nothing is really our own. And if God calls us to give it away, why should we care if it leaves us destitute and in need. We know who our provider is. Maybe the question isn't so much whether the "needy" are really in need, but rather how much do WE really need?

Every Christian seems to want to think that God has called them to have earthly riches and abundance, but I think he has actually called very few people to that. There is so much in this world that can distract us from Him... our new cell phones with all the new features, that million dollar home, that new car, the run down apartment that barely keeps you dry at night....I think God wants us to stop rationalizing 'how much' and start giving with.... reckless abandon if the Spirit so prompts us.
Maybe that means we will be destitute, or maybe we will still have everything we want. But it will mean we were obedient. This shouldn't be so hard.

I'm sorry if anything I've said was offensive, that was not my intention.

Geoff Cocanower said...


Couple of observations:
-You are correct in your inference that I don't want to simply give what I have to and nothing more. The conflict inside of me comes when I try to be a good steward with what I have been given, especially when it comes to something that I have been given in a specific ministry. When I think about the talents that I have, (namely, speaking, organizing people) I have a number of opportunities that allow me to exercise those abilities. I have to be extremely wise with those in order to execute those talents how I believe God is calling me to use them.

Let me put in this in a more substantial way and stay away from the immaterial. Let's say that I have a ministry that sets out to feed the homeless. My ministry goals and the things that I believe Christ has set me out to do in that area are clearly for long term impact and to see people move off the streets and into a stable environment that they can sustain (We can argue all day this point, but that would be missing the point). As a means to accomplish this goal, I feel that we need to be able to provide meals for people for an extended amount of time. I exist to serve the people for more than just one day. In order to accomplish that goal, I MUST disperse our resources in a way that allows us to sustain that long-term impact.

This is where I see the discrepancy in our arguments and wonder if we are talking about apples and oranges.

My focus is on my ministry. I have been called to a different ministry than you have which is different than Jenni Festa's which is different than Joel Osteen's which is different than Francis Chan's which is different than Shane Claiborne's which is different than Kalyn Lantz'. That said, I feel that we have different ways to make sure that our ministry is obedient to God's call. For you, pouring out the amount that you can whenever you can may be the most obedient thing you can do. For Francis Chan, not taking a salary and furthering the kingdom in that way may be the most obedient thing that he can do.

My point is this, the person that tweeted this, desires to have long-term impact. If you want to have longer-term impact, you can't just give everything away, today. That doesn't make any sense. And I know that you have argued that we won't be destitute if we continually pour out, and I agree, but only to a certain extent. I will not be destitute or even close to it, because God will provide for me like He has promised, if I am obedient with what He has given to me. This isn't so much about not being willing to give everything away and more about being able to give away something later as well.

I hope that this makes some sort of sense.