Wednesday, November 6, 2013

I’ve Been Thinking #1

[Note: this is the first of an occasional series called I’ve Been Thinking; these posts will share some thoughts about what I’ve been—well, thinking about …]

I’ve been thinking about the ways that Christians do and don’t think about other people.

Sometimes I wonder whether we really think all that much about other people. And if we do, do we only get around to thinking about them after we’ve burned up most of our energy thinking about me and mine?

For example, take the ways that we use our time, our energy, and our money. Whether it’s an individual, a family, or a church, how many of us when we’re planning our life or our budget ask as our first question, “How can I/we use these resources to love God with all I am and to love my neighbor as myself?” (two realities that can’t be separated in the Christian life).

Over at my Prayer 365 blog, where I publish a daily prayer, I have over the last two days written a prayer about our first thought—“God, in all things let my first thought be of you” and our second thought—“God, in all things let my second thought be of others.” But how does that show itself in our attitudes and in our actions?

I am fascinated by the ways that we Christians think about and debate public policy. There are, of course, many varieties of Christians with all kinds of backgrounds and experiences so differences of opinion are to be expected. And there are legitimate debates to be had about what kinds of public policies do the most good for the people who are in the greatest need.

Still, I struggle with Christians whose first thought seems to be of self and of “my kind” rather than their first thought being of God with their second thought (and a close second at that—Jesus did say, after all, that “a second is like it”) being of other people, especially of people who are poor, sick, hungry, and marginalized. Those are the people for whom God seems to have an especially tender heart.

God (and everybody who knows me) knows that I’m deeply, deeply flawed and that I practice my share of hypocrisy. But it would never occur to me not to want my tax dollars to go to help families with children buy food for those children or to try to provide health coverage for families in need. I’d much rather have my money go toward such efforts than toward lots of other things it goes toward. Other people do much, much more than I do to try to help in such situations, but, for the life of me, I just don’t get Christians whose first thought on such matters is “I don’t want my money going to help those people”—or some more or less polite version of that thought.

I know—there are deadbeats. I know—there have to be better ways. But I’m not thinking about the details. Again, there are policy debates that need to be had and hard decisions that need to be made.

And I know that in a free society the church’s ideals cannot be the only thing to inform public policy, but such concern for people is held in common by people of all faiths and by people of no faith.

What I’ve been thinking about, though, is the gut-level, heart-felt initial reaction of us Christians toward issues relating to the poor and needy.

What does it say about the character of our heart and the nature of our faith if our first reaction toward helping folks is “No, not with what belongs to me”? rather than “Yes, they need help. What can we do?”

1 comment:

stuckinthemiddleton said...

Giving without judging has always seemed to me to be one of the most difficult and one of the most important things to do in life. I had a classmate who would get furious if he saw someone using food stamps to buy diet soda ("it has no nutrition!"). But the ability to make a choice about what one is going to buy is a privilege that most of us don't even realize we have, but that all of us deserve.