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Two Percent of Two Percent

six-centsTo me, this is the chapter. This is the chapter that we all need to not just read, but to live. If you are one of the individuals who bought the book but haven’t began or finished reading or life got too busy (it does that sometimes). Just sit down and read this chapter. Just this one.

If I could just quote Rich again and again and again, I’d do it. Because there is absolutely nothing that I can say or clarify that does justice to the point he has hammered home. It’s time for us to do something. Tangible. Sacrificial. To give. Our money.

Yes, that’s right. Money. Ack! We shrink back, do we not? Someone so bold as to say, “Give your money!”? I mean this is why people hate the church right? Because we’re all just so money hungry, all we do is talk about money, we want your money??? Right? Wrong.

Jesus wants your life. He wants you to know He loves you and died for you in a real and tangible way. But Jesus also, never hesitated to talk about money. “Fully 15 percent of Jesus’ recorded words dealt with money, more than what He said about heaven and hell combined” (Rich). There is a direct line to our relationship with money and our spiritual health, Jesus knows it, Rich knows it, we all know it.

Money is powerful. And in this chapter I realized that when we say our giving can change the world, it’s not just for a plea to get our money, it’s reality. It is indeed fact.

Once Rich can get us past the emotional barrier that we do need to tithe, 10 percent, he starts stating some of the pertinent facts of our reality vs the reality of the world. While we may not see ourselves as wealthy (I drive a 2001 Lincoln Continental in a neighborhood where I am surrounded by a sea of Lexus and BMW sweet rides… while 93% of the world’s people don’t own a car), we are. Fact.  You’re rich. Get over it and stop being mad at the people you walk by that you’re jealous of. You. Are. Rich. Stop whining.

The total income of American church goers is $5.2 trillion. (That’s more than five thousand billion dollars). It would take just a little over 1 percent of the income of American Christians to lift the poorest one billion people in the world out of extreme poverty.

One percent. I read this and think to myself, “Can I tithe one percent more? Can I give one percent more to an organization that I trust to carry out this mission?” Here’s another sobering truth from Rich, from the stats that American church goers (in 2005) gave just 2.58 percent of their income (27% less of the income given during the Great Depression…).

The bottom line is that the commitment that American Christians, the wealthiest Christians in all history, are making to the world is just about 2 percent of 2 percent – actually about five ten-thousandths of our income. In simpler terms, that amounts to six pennies per person per day that we give through our churches to the rest of the world – six cents!

So there it is. In black and white. Feelings aside. Frustrations about what the pastor preaches aside. There it is. Facts. Simple truth. Now deal with it and let’s decide what we are going to do.

Let’s just say that as believers we decided that we would actually tithe our full 10%. What would that be? I loved the table that Rich had, some of it below:

  • $168 billion – the extra money available if all American churchgoers tithed

________________________

  • $705 billion – amount Americans spent on entertainment and recreation
  • $179 billion – amount spent by teenagers ages 12-17 (2006)
  • $39.5 billion – total U.S. -government foreign assistance budget for the world
  • $31 billion – amount spent on pets (2003)
  • $5 billion – total Oversees ministries income to 700 Protestant mission agencies, including denominational, interdenominational, and independent agencies (2005)

Here’s what’s even MORE mind blowing about these facts:

  • $65 billion (less than 40% of the $168 billion if we tithed) could eliminate the most extreme poverty on the planet for more than a billion people
  • Universal primary education for children – $6 billion
  • The cost to bring clean water to most of the world poor – $9 billion
  • Basic health and nutrition for EVERYONE in the world – $13 billion

(And if you do the math, we can do all of the above and still have $75 billion left over to help)

Has your mouth dropped open by now? Mine has. I’ve read this over and over and still have to remind myself to close my mouth because my entire life I have watched the poor on the news, seen the images of kids drinking water and I know it will kill them… and thought “Wow, this problem is just too big.” I’ve sent in my six pennies and thought, “Hey, at least I’m doing something – but really it’s a big problem.”

Yeah, it’s a big problem because people are dying – but it is NOT out of our realm of reach!! Not at all!! Here’s what else I loved about how Rich put this into perspective.

Imagine how stunning it would be to the watching world for American Christians to give so generously that it:

  • brought an end to world hunger;
  • solved the clean water crisis;
  • provided universal access to drugs and medical care for the millions suffering from AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis;
  • virtually eliminated the more than twenty-six thousand daily child deaths;
  • guaranteed education for all the world’s children;
  • provided a safety net for the world tens of millions of orphans.

Think about the statement it would make if American Christian citizens stepped up and gave more than all of the governments of the world combined because they took Jesus seriously when He said to love our neighbors as ourselves. Terrorists might have a harder time recruiting young men to attack a nation so compassionate. Other wealthy nations might be shamed- or inspired to follow our example. Adherents of other relations would surely wonder what motivates the Christians to be so loving and generous.

Okay, I have to stop quoting Rich (I told you I could just quote the entire chapter I am so motivated). This is the whole gospel, a gospel without a hole. This is the good news, demonstrated with action in tangible ways that saves peoples lives. It could literally change everything. The two most important words in that last sentence – Literally. Not figuratively, not “oh that sounds good but the problem is too big”… LITERALLY. And, Everything. It would change EVERYTHING. Not just one child being sponsored and getting an education – an entire GENERATION and generationS getting educated, with clean water, and nutrition. An entire generation and those after them and after them and after them – that are contributing to society because they can. Because they aren’t concerned about how to get water and if that water will kill them, because they have nutrition so their brains can develop and then education helps them reach even more of their potential and this cycle begins to occur – a very very very positive cycle that can literally, change everything.

And it begins by us living out our faith. It begins with a commitment to say “yes” in our actions when we look at Jesus and we have said, “Yes, I’ll follow you” – we follow Him. We follow Him not just to church on Sundays, but to the world with the resources we can give.

This is not a hopeless situation. Watching the news does not have to be hopeless. We can change history and in doing so the world WILL stand up and wonder why and our answer… will be Jesus – and then, then these questions and doubts of our faith will have to cease. Because I believe even the strongest critics will sit up and notice the change being made in the world, all in the name of Jesus and wonder what that guy is really all about – for his followers to care this much.

Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:16

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Putting The American Dream To Death

High school students spent spring break in Haiti at Hosean International Ministries.

High school students spent spring break in Haiti at Hosean International Ministries.

I thought Rich started to address the topic of giving in a brilliant way. Even I was squirming at the beginning of this chapter because you see, I work hard for what I have gained or hope to gain. I’ve never been one to not want to give. One of the greatest frustrations of taking a pay cut for a new job (my choice, and a very good choice) was the our ability to give in the way we had previously was just not the same, just not there. But when I don’t know what’s coming, these conversations always make me squirm at first.

But this IS a topic that must be addressed. I loved the concept of God entrusting us with our resources, finances and otherwise, we’re not entitled, but entrusted. Much like we give our retirement to a stockbroker or a financial adviser – for them to help us grow our resources.

A few other points that really stood out to me:

  1. The parable in Matthew 25, one verse is always on my mind “You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” I have always always enjoyed this and try to keep myself accountable to this verse in particular. Am I a good steward of what I have?? Such as money, but also time and other resources. I 100% believe that God will keep his promise to multiply my efforts and outcome by being faithful with a few things – even such things as the blessing of being a parent. If I am faithful to this I believe God will multiply those outcomes in my children.
  2. The community in Acts 2 – I loved this quote, “These folks were transforming the culture, not letting the culture transform them.” Sometimes where we live and the values we see just are counter-cultural to the ideals of our faith that we try to live. We don’t have to be radical, but our differences will stand out just by being faithful.
  3. I also loved that Rich mentioned a very tangible way to live this by asking questions such as: Should I buy this new car? take this vacation? increase my savings account? Maybe, but not until I prayerfully consider what God would have me do with His money. – The questions could absolutely be YES. For us right now, increasing our savings account – a very “yes” answer there. But there are some funds where the answer is, “No. Send to Haiti.” In January it was, “No. Use that to GO to Haiti.” And let’s be honest, there were years where the answer was, “Yes, GO TO THE BEACH.” I love those answers 🙂 But the point is to be very conscious, intentional, and to ask – where will this best serve You?

Simple. Tangible. Actionable.

 

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The Hole In Our Gospel

First of all… Yes!! I am so excited to start on this journey. I love to read and I love to read substance. AND I love community. So why not put all three together? Brilliant 🙂

I wanted to start with an absolutely fabulous book called, “The Hole In Our Gospel” by Richard Stearns. I didn’t even know this book existed until my Mom mentioned that she was reading it. And being my Mom, the next time she showed up she had a gift for me… this book.

This was my recommendation on LinkedIn/Amazon: “If you are not willing to be convicted, challenged, and motivated to action then do not pick up this book. If however, you are willing to take a close look at your life, your priorities, and are willing to be hard on yourself and change habits, priorities, and timelines in order to help those that need and receive a great reward. Then this is the book for you. It is life changing if you let it be.”

I think the best thing to do to explain it is to let Rich do the talking.

“On Sunday morning, safe in our church pews and surrounded by friends, it can be all too easy to leave the world’s violence, suffering, and turmoil outside – out of sight, out of mind. But wait – as Christians, are we really given the option of turning away from the world’s problems?

The idea behind The Hole in Our Gospel is quite simple. It’s basically the belief that being a Christian, or follower of Jesus Christ, requires much more than just having a personal or transforming relationship with God. It also entails a public and transforming relationship with the world…”

In my opinion, this book is a call to action. To those of us who claim to love and follow Jesus. Are we following his commands to serve and to take care of those in need? Can I also suggest that although this is written from a Biblical perspective, that one need not fully buy-in to that perspective to really get something out of this book? I think can. Let’s see what Rich has to say again.

“I write this book unapologetically from the perspective of one who holds a Christian worldview.  And because more than three-quarters of all Americans call themselves “Christians,” it is obviously a worldview held by the large majority… But if you are not a Christian, I hope you will read this book anyway. You will find it to be both self-critical and judicial of the shortcomings readily found in the Christian community. As a group, we are far from perfect. But Christian or not, you must not read this book dispassionately, as if you are somehow exempt from caring. All of us who live in this world share responsibility for tackling the world’s problems and showing passion to our fellow man.”

I’d like to shout an “Amen” at this point, except that doing so would imply that I am pulling my own weight, doing my part. And let’s be honest. I’m not. There is so much more that I could and should be doing. I love that this book is challenging me to be honest and to change.

Ready to start?

The logistics – 1. Finding the book!
Barnes and Noble: Paperback is $12-$18 (.com vs in store). Click HERE for .com. The Nook version is $10.39 and you can use that same link. B&N also has a Marketplace similar to Amazon – starting at $1.29 for the book. Click HERE for the Marketplace options.

Amazon: Click HERE for Amazon’s options. Anywhere from 75 cents to $11ish. The Kindle version is $8.63.

Or any bookstore I’m sure you can pick this up at. I’m a fan of cheaper books myself, but hey, whatever works for you I say go for it!

2. Starting! Let’s try to begin the week of October 7th. This gives everyone a little over two weeks to get the book. I will do the write up and begin our virtual discussion of Chapter 1. Whoever is interested I will set up a totally random, nonscientific schedule of who can begin discussions on subsequent chapters.

3. “I’ve never blogged,” you say. No problem. Email me what you think and want to say, I’ll simply post it for you!

In the mean time, if you are interested in pursuing this. Leave a comment below with a fun fact about who you are and maybe your favorite book, or the last good book you’ve read. Let’s start to get to know each other!

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