Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The eye of the needle

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Matthew 19:23-24

According to figures for 2009, the average American household income is $46,326.00 per year. I don't know if that seems like a lot or a little to you. (Just for clarity, the poverty line is currently set at $22,000 per year). If you make $100,000 a year, your family is in the top 15% of the nation. If you make $200,000 a year, you are in the top 3%. Now, I know those numbers seem really high - that is a lot of money, but compared to other countries, around the world, even those families firmly in the middle at just over $46,000 a year are sitting pretty.

According to the World Bank, in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, over 70% of the population lives on $2 or less per day. The vast majority of families in the world earn less than $10,000 a year.

The richest 25% of the world receives 75% of its goods and services. As you might expect the, the poorest 75% of the world receives the remaining %25 percent of goods and services. (http://ucatlas.ucsc.edu/income.php)

In addition to these saddening statistics, a recent study has clearly shown that the wealthier you are, the less likely you are to be generous (proportionately speaking) with your income. In other words, even though the amount the 'rich person' is giving away might be technically more than the actual amount the 'poor person' is giving, people with less money tend to give a higher percentage of their income away to help others.

Now that you have read through all the statistical soup I have thrown at you, I want to remind us that Jesus constantly tells us how wealth is an obstacle not only to our relationship with God, but to our task to bring God's Kingdom to fruition here on earth: The more we have, the more we want.

Taking that first step to rid ourselves of the shackles that tie us to our material goods is very difficult - we want the best for our children and we want to be 'normal' - even if that means we spend more than we should to make ourselves blend in with the rest of our neighbors.

Freeing ourselves from an attachment to materialism doesn't just happen - you have to plan it and stick with it even when gets painful. And it will get painful. If you are struggling with these issues here are some suggestions:
1) take the amount you have prayerfully decided to give to the church out of your budge at the 1st of the month and turn it in. That way you can't spend it - it's already gone.
2) walk around the store a few extra times just thinking about whether or not you really need that extra stuff - if not, put it back.
3) put some padding in your shopping budget - just $10 or $15 will make you feel like you can splurge every once in a while
4)ask God everyday what He wants you to do with HIS money.

We might not see it in our everyday life but we live in a hurting world. God is calling each of us to do something about it - and action is never cheap in time or money.